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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Uttarakhand Mayhem: Why rural folks are unreported?

Hundreds of rural folks who worked along the pilgrim route to Kedarnath as porters, labourers and vendors to earn some money in the pilgrimage season are still missing in the rain and flood tragedy that has hit Uttarakhand. 

Electronic and Print media has been reporting the rain and flood tragedy at the four pilgrim spots, the Char Dham of Kedarnath. Badrinath. Gangotri and Yamunotri. 

But, what about those beyond the pilgrimage spots, where the tragedy has a lot of ramifications for locals, the most important being loss of livelihood.

Hundreds of men from villages in Mandakini Valley surrounding Kedarnath temple town are missing, who used to earn their livelihoods along the 14 km pilgrimage route, working as porters to carry children, women or elderly on their backs, selling knick-knacks like chips or bottled water and raincoats and also run the many dhabas, the eating joints that dot the winding mountain road. In another village in Guptkashi, 22 km away, 78 men who were working in Kedarnath are also missing.

Now with the yatra season over, few of them who survived, don't know when it will resume and how they will live rest of their lives. 

Besides the pilgrimage season, villagers were also depended on the tourism season for their livelihood. It was their main source of livelihood.Thousands of buildings and homes, bridges and roads have been destroyed in the tragedy, badly hitting the tourism season.

The incessant rains that hit the state over three days from June 14, leading to flash floods and cloudbursts, have led to hundreds of deaths and hundreds others are missing. Over 70,000 stranded people, including pilgrims and tourists, have been rescued by the armed forces.

Another aspect of the human tragedy is that the floods have destroyed not just the farmland but also the irrigation system in the mountains, including the network of canals and irrigation channels. The canals are gone, the irrigation system is gone.. this has compounded the loss for the villagers.

The state authorities have already said the Kedarnath pilgrimage, which sees hundreds of thousands of pilgrims travelling each year, may not resume for the next couple of years. Most tourists have cancelled plans to travel to Uttarakhand following the tragedy.The state earns around Rs.25 billion a year through tourism.

Through the Lenses !

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