"Almost all major roads on the Char Dham route have been equipped with facilities and opened to traffic considering the proximity of the yatra season. The Rishikesh-Badrinath highway has been fully repaired," state Chief Secretary Subhash Kumar, who recently toured Kedar Valley on foot to review preparations for the yatra, told PTI.
"A joint task force of Nehru Mountaineering Institute and Uttarakhand police personnel is making efforts on a war footing to build the pedestrian route between Bhimbali and Kedarnath," he said.
The yatra season begins this year with the opening of the portals of Gangotri and Yamunotri on May 2 followed by those of Kedarnath on May 4 and Badrinath on May 5.
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Assuring devotees of a safe yatra this season, the chief secretary said many arrangements, which were not in existence earlier, have been made along the pilgrimage route for the safety of the pilgrims.
There will be heavy deployment of State Disaster Response Force and para-military personnel along the route especially in slide-prone areas to deal with any emergency besides temporary mobile counters at 13 places including Haridwar, Rishikesh, Jankichatti, Guptkashi and Gangotri for the registration of pilgrims, Kumar said, adding the process of deploying 100 SDRF jawans in Kedar Valley has already begun.
The yatra was suspended last year in the wake of the catastrophic flashfloods in Uttarakhand in June, killing thousands of people.
The Char Dhams are closed every year for nearly six months during the winter when they become snowbound only to be reopened during April-May when lakhs of devotees from all over the country and abroad visit the shrines.
500 sodium lights are being installed between Gaurikund and Kedarnath and 54 pre-engineered huts besides shelter homes with a capacity to accomodate 500 persons each are being built between Lincholi and the eighth century Himalayan shrine for the lodging of devotees.
Two helipads are being built at Lincholi and Kedarnath and the number of personnel engaged in reconstruction work between Gaurikund and Rambara on way to the shrine, which withstood the flood ravage, has been increased to 800 to speed up the exercise which has to be completed before April 30, Kumar said.
Labourers engaged in the operation are being paid higher wages as an incentive to expedite work with a special focus on two major stretches of 500 metres each and the 12 slide zones identified in the area, he said.
The entire government machinery is working overtime to ensure a smooth and trouble-free yatra for devotees and the Rudraprayag District Magistrate is monitoring on a daily basis the road repair and reconstruction work along the yatra route by the BRO, the chief secretary said.
Learning lessons from last year's tragedy, the tourism department has set up a control room at Uttarakhand Tourism Development Council headquarters in Dehradun to provide all relevant information to visitors about the pilgrimage such as its route and availability of accomodation, he said.
Connected with the offices of all District Magistrates of Garhwal region, PWD, the Department of Health and Medicine and Disaster Management, the control room will function between 7 AM to 9 PM everyday. Its toll free phone number is 1364 and email address is email@example.com, Kumar said.
Asking people not to be afraid of coming to Uttarakhand and visiting the famed shrines in Garhwal Himalayas this season, the chief secretary said their safety is the government's top priority.