Depite the Uttarakhand tragedy, people’s faith is still strong and the folly here they say is human.

Religion is powerful and even more powerful is people’s beliefs in rituals and traditions.

For instance, for most Hindus a trip to the Char Dhams, or the four holiest places in the land, is a must in their lifetime. In South India a trip to Tirupathi is another must-do and in fact, the queues for darshan at most of these religious sites are often serpentine ones, with devotees waiting for hours together just to get a glimpse of the deity. But then every once in a while a mishap or calamity might occur, shaking the belief and faith of a few.

However, are these reason enough for people to give up their faith altogether? We find out.

The recent Uttarakhand tragedy is an example of one such incident that has raised concerns in the minds of people. “Such incidents shake me up emotionally,” says Chandra Vijay, an IT employee. “People go to religious places to pray for the well being of their families and themselves. Yet, when such disasters or accidents happen and people lose the very lives they are praying for, you wonder what it all really means. I lost my mother in a road accident on our way to Tirupati a few years ago. It led me to question why did we pray to God when he was not with us in our tough times. However, you soon realise that things could have been much worse if it hadn’t been for Him. Similarly, the toll in this calamity could have been much larger if it hadn’t been for Him. The bottom line is belief in God will continue to exist and we are sentimental fools,” he says.

For Sandeep Gabbula, an IT employee, whose parents returned from Uttarakhand just three days before the cloud burst, this calamity is no reason to lose faith in God. “How can we blame a being that we are not even sure exists? Such disasters are man-made. Rampant exploitation of the environment and the failure of the government to take precautionary measures are to blame. The Met department never seems to be able to predict things and the local authorities never seem to be prepared. Everybody runs helter-skelter only when tragedy strikes. Worse still, some of the locals there are looting people, taking advantage of the situation. What is the point? How can one blame God for human folly?” he questions.

Rukmini Ranveer, a former lecturer, who recently returned from Uttarakhand, agrees. “One cannot blame God for this. Something like this could have happened anywhere. The point is the government should do much more to strengthen the infrastructure of the place. If they had, it wouldn’t have gotten so bad. In fact, earlier it was considered lucky if a person died there. But not like this,” she says.

Social activist and writer Chandana Chakrabarti, who is a self-confessed atheist, believes that faith has no bearing on a tragedy like this. “I’ve been to the Char Dhams myself, simply because I love the hills. The whole route is fraught with danger and in case something happens there is nothing anyone can do.”