Rituparna Chatterjee- Mumbai
In the recently concluded Adventure Tour Operators Association of India (ATOAI) convention held in Shivpuri, Uttarakhand, the tourism department of the state had made a commitment to roll out a comprehensive rafting policy, but this decision seems to now be under scrutiny. When asked about the state’s progress on the same, Dr Umakant Panwar, IAS, secretary, department of tourism, Government of Uttarakhand stated, “Some people are resisting, and so we are on an interactive stage with them and soon we will be finalising the policy. Representatives from the rafting association have been included in the committee who are drafting the policy. We will put in place a statutory body, which will carry out the inspections. The rafting policy will be on a trial run this year.”
Keeping in view the monsoon deluge that struck the state in June last year which claimed the lives of many, the state tourism department will be regulating the tourist inflow this year to the Chardham Yatra which is scheduled to begin from May 2. “ The carrying capacity regulation will be done at two levels. On the first level, you will have to register on our online portal which will give you the available dates for visiting a particular route to avoid crowding at that route. Then there is the second level of registration which is at the base camp. For instance, at Rishikesh if the route is choked or if there is an adverse weather warning, then visitors will be held back either for few hours or one day or overnight, while making arrangements for their stay,” opined Panwar. The yatras will start on their scheduled dates i.e. the Yamnotri and Gangotri on May 2, followed by Kedarnath on May 4, Badrinath on May 5 and Hemkund Sahib on May 25.
The state tourism department is also implementing stricter security norms this year which include – launching of a mobile application to sense the location of tourists, biometric registration for all pilgrims visiting the Chardham Yatra, starting more ropeways, private helicopter services, constructing helipads among some. To rebuild its infrastructure, the state government has received `1000 crore from the Centre out of the planned `3500 crore. “Our gross state domestic product for the year 2012-2013 was `107548 crore. Tourism contributes 25 to 30 per cent to the state economy and due to the disaster last year we suffered a revenue loss of `12000 crore. We are encouraging PPP for building hotel infrastructure. For the same, the government will also be giving incentives to private players,” added Panwar. However, when asked about the incentives, he declined to comment.
To promote Uttarakhand as a year-long destination, the tourism department will also be introducing new products this year which include – the winter Chardham Yatra, winter carnival and the Tehri mega project, a man-made lake consisting of a Tehri adventure centre, Tehri floating restaurant, Tehri floating long huts, among some. The Tehri adventure centre is expected to complete by end of this year.