A year has passed but the horrifying images from Uttarakhand remain strongly edged in the minds of those who lost their loved ones or saw their livelihood destroyed by the Himalayan Tsunami.
It was on June 16, 2013 when the Mandkani, Bhagirathi, Alaknanda and other rivers that join to form the mighty Ganga, turned into moving forces of destruction that left thousands dead in ‘Dev Bhoomi’.
Icy water barrelling down the mountain side in a sea of mud and rocks, washing away roads, bridges is a recurring nightmare for the affected people, for whom nothing much has changed as Uttarakhand marks the first anniversary of the devastating floods on Monday.
A lot was promised by the government to ensure more safety, lesser environmental damage and prompt rescue of those trapped in the difficult terrain between the route of the Char Dham Yatra – Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath. Locals rue nothing has changed.
Thousands of survivors are still struggling to pick up the pieces amid dwindling hope that the government will eventually come good on its promises and restore the old glory of the Char Dham pilgrimage.
However, the road to recovery remains at best patchy. For one the difficult topography makes the task arduous but more importantly the slow response from the state government, further hit by the change of guard in Dehradun, has hit the progress of relief and rehabilitation.
The government has announced lakhs of rupees as compensation but it has failed to ensure that the locals in the Kedar valley feel secure about their future. While the money was welcome, what they desperately need is the resumption of the pilgrimage which has seen the numbers drop to around 70,000 this year from the previous 10-15 million pilgrims.
Nearly 30 per cent of Uttarakhand’s total gross state domestic product comes from tourism.
The landslides and downpour on the Kedarnath-Badrinath route this year too stranded pilgrims who braved their fear and undertook the trek. The facilities at base camps are not reassuring enough, said a devotee from Bithoor in Kanpur who has just returned after completing a trip to Kedarnath.
The Uttarakhand government last July said it was exploring the possibility of constructing a ropeway to the Kedarnath shrine in the coming future but not much headway has been made.
Most of the roads that were washed away in the disaster are far from being relaid and whatever work the Indian Army’s Central Command did in the aftermath of the floods has not been completed at many places. Many villages marooned in the floods still seek financial help and rue that their ration cards and other papers are yet to be made available.