DeMo, hiked costs cast shadows on Char Dham Yatra

Note ban, costly tour packages cast shadow on Char Dham Yatra

By Author  |  Published: 7th May 2017  12:00 amUpdated: 7th May 2017  12:11 am
Char Dham Yatra Kedarnath
File Photo: Long queue of devotees outside Kedarnath temple on the day temple doors were opened in Kedarnath in Uttarakhand.

Hyderabad: The Centre’s demonetisation move, coupled with a steep hike in the cost of tour packages, has cast a shadow on the Char Dham Yatra plans of pilgrims from the city.

Every day, more than 50 persons call travel agencies to enquire about the yatra. Of them, only 50 per cent visit agencies to finalise the tour, but on coming to know about the costs, a majority of them hesitate in booking tickets, say tour operators.

The package cost has gone up owing to a rise in taxes. It was 4.8 per cent last year, and now has gone up to nine per cent, in turn triggering a rise in travel costs, said P Sudhakar Rao from Rao’s Travels.

He said demonetisation has largely affected the tour as most devotees were in a dilemma over finalising their plans.

“Devotees are in a confused state over whether they would be able to do safe digital transactions using debit or credit cards as it is becoming difficult to arrange cash these days. This has eventually affected bookings,” a tour operator said.

Given the past experiences during which many devotees got stuck in the area after flash floods lashed the hilly terrain, some are worried about the weather conditions as well. A few operators said the patronage for the yatra suffered a 30 per cent dip this year when compared with last year.

According to Gayatri from Sai Charan Tours & Travels from Kukatpally, the cost of the package depends upon the accommodation, food and other facilities. It ranges from Rs 21,500 to Rs 50,000.

The journey begins from Secunderabad by train to New Delhi, from where a bus is arranged for devotees to reach Haridwar. From Haridwar, pilgrims begin the Char Dham Yatra in a bus, covering the four sacred shrines of Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath.

Last year, officials in Uttarakhand promised to arrange a helicopter to reach Kedarnath in a hassle-free manner instead of trekking. However, this was later cancelled leading to problems for devotees. This was one of the reasons for many, especially senior citizens, to drop their travel plans, she added.