The Uttarakhand administration is busy giving the final touches to preparations for the annual Char Dham Yatra that begins on May 9.
While police have strengthened security measures, the health department is working to provide healthcare facilities on the Yatra route.
The portals of Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri will be thrown open to pilgrims on Monday, while the fourth shrine, Badrinath, will be opened two days later on May 11.
The tourism department is keeping its fingers crossed over the pilgrim turnout in the wake of the negative publicity brought about by the recent forest fires.
The Uttarakhand police have stepped up efforts to ensure a peaceful, smooth Yatra. Top police officials told HT that besides the routine police force, five companies of the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC), comprising around 350 personnel, have been deployed for the Char Dham duty.
Two companies of the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), which provides rescue and relief operations in case of a calamity or emergency, have been posted in the disaster-prone areas.
Sanjay Gunjyal, IGP (Garhwal range), said around 100 highly-trained SDRF personnel will be deployed on the Kedarnath trek route to assist pilgrims and the rest 100 will operate en route the other three shrines.
“It will instill a sense of security among the yatris. Besides these, 30 temporary police outposts will also get activated in the Char Dham areas on May 8 to ensure effective law and order compliance,” Gunjyal said.
In addition to these measures, a total of 36 sub-inspectors and 139 constables from the plain districts of Dehradun and Haridwar have been transferred to the five hill districts – Chamoli, Rudraprayag, Uttarkashi, Tehri and Pauri – through which the Char Dham Yatra passes.
The state health department has decided to deploy a total of 118 doctors, including 64 specialists, on the pilgrimage route. Also, around 12 temporary health centers have been set up on the Kedarnath trek route to take care of the pilgrims’ healthcare needs.
Officials have given instructions to chief medical officers of respective districts to ensure ample availability of life-saving drugs and oxygen cylinders in all hospitals that fall on the Yatra route.
“We have made it mandatory for all pilgrims above 50 years of age to undergo health screenings before setting off for treks to Kedarnath and Yamunotri shrines,” said health secretary Bhupinder Kaur Aulakh.
The Char Dham Yatra had suffered a major jolt after the deadly flashfloods in the state in 2013. However, encouraged by the high footfall of pilgrims last year, the tourism department is hoping that the numbers will cross the 15 lakh-mark this time.
“Last year, we had more than 8 lakh pilgrims against less than 3 lakh pilgrims in 2014. This year, we’ve have already got a lot of queries (from prospective pilgrims) and hope that the figure will cross 15 lakh mark this time,” additional director (tourism) A K Dwivedi told HT.
He said the raging forest fires set alarm bells ringing for the state tourism but it has now been brought under control.
Sandeep Sahni, president of the Uttarakhand Hotel Association, said the tourism industry is looking forward to a “healthy Char Dham pilgrimage season”.