The pilgrim death toll has crossed the 100-mark in less than a month of the Char Dhar Yatra. Kedarnath has recorded the highest of 49 pilgrim deaths so far.
To check the rising number of pilgrim deaths on the trek route of the four revered Himalayan shrines of Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri, the Uttarakhand government has made health screening of pilgrims mandatory before allowing them to undertake the Char Dham yatra.
The development comes after the pilgrim death toll crossed the 100-mark in less than a month of the Char Dhar yatra, which started on May 3 with the opening of the portals of the Gangotri and Yamunotri shrines in Uttarkashi. Later, on May 6, the portals of the Kedarnath temple (in Rudraprayag) were opened for devotees and on May 9, the Badrinath shrine (in Chamoli) opened after the winter break.
According to official data, Kedarnath has recorded the highest of 49 pilgrim deaths so far, followed by 20 deaths at Badrinath, 25 in Yamunotri, and seven in Gangotri. In all, the four shrines have recorded 101 pilgrim deaths in less than a month. In comparison, 90 deaths were recorded during the entire yatra season (about six months) in 2019, 102 in 2018 and 112 in 2017. The death toll for 2020 and 2021 was significantly lower as the yatra was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to health experts, several deaths have occurred due to cardiac-related issues. They say that elderly pilgrims and those who are not acclimatised to high-altitude conditions are more vulnerable to developing health issues during the trek. Among the victims, several had comorbidities. In view of these cases, the Uttarakhand government has now deployed doctors at every 5 km on the trek routes of these four shrines and has made health inspection mandatory.
Meanwhile, all four shrines have been witnessing a record tourist turnout this year despite the casualties. In nearly four weeks, the four shrines have hosted about 12 lakh pilgrims. In fact, pilgrims have been found using forged registration certificates to undertake the Char Dham yatra. Till now, the police were returning such pilgrims, but recently it announced that people who use forged documents to undertake the yatra will be booked for fraud.
To check the heavy influx of pilgrims, Uttarakhand tourism secretary Dilip Jawalkar urged people to not plan their journey in a jiffy. He said, "Unlike the Amarnath Yatra, which goes on for only a month, the Char Dham yatra continues for about six months. Therefore, pilgrims have a lot of time and they should plan their yatra accordingly."
(Edited by : Sudarsanan Mani)