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Mandakini has swept away their hopes

Kavita Upadhyay
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Left high and dry:Flash floods in Kedarnath have rendered many residents of Okhla village in Tehri district jobless. They work in the Kedarnath Valley during the Char Dham pilgrimage season.— Photo: V.V. Krishnan
Left high and dry:Flash floods in Kedarnath have rendered many residents of Okhla village in Tehri district jobless. They work in the Kedarnath Valley during the Char Dham pilgrimage season.— Photo: V.V. Krishnan

The flash floods in Uttarakhand have left many families high and dry. Many of them have lost their breadwinners.

During the catastrophe, the Mandakini river came gushing down the Kedarnath Valley and swept away Ranjit Dhanai and his son. Ranjit’s family members at Okhla in Tehri district had to wait for five days for hearing the news from the owner of the lodge where the two had been working.

Ranjit’s friend in his village, Vinod Rawat said, “Ranjit and his son were the only earning members in the family. Now who will provide help to his wife, two children and his mother?”

Fifty others from Okhla, who too worked in the Kedarnath Valley, returned home 5-7 days after the flash floods in the Mandakini.

Dhanveer Rawat, a resident of Okhla who was among the 50 survivors, said, “Sadness looms over my house even after I have come back. All I have now is a piece of agricultural land which does not produce much.”

“Though some vegetables grow on the land, most of the rations have to be bought from the market. There is no money to buy that as well,” Dhanveer added. He earned Rs. 5,000 a month while working at a lodge in Kedarnath. “I work at Kedarnath from April till December every year. The remaining months I do farming. This earned me enough to take care of my family,” he said.

Fiftytwo residents of this village work at Kedarnath in Rudraprayag district and around 60 at Yamunotri in Uttarkashi district during the Char Dham pilgrimage season. Now these villagers can neither count on pilgrimage nor do they have their farming land. Restaurants and hotels, which used to be packed with pilgrims at this time of the year, are all empty.

Harendra Singh, who works in a hotel on way to Okhla, said: “I do not expect any pilgrim to stop by my hotel and stay for a night.”The hotel with 150 beds has been empty since June 16 when the landslips, floods and cloudbursts hit many areas in Chamoli, Uttarkashi, and Rudraprayag districts.

Harendra has put up a board outside the hotel, which reads, “Pilgrims can stay for free.”

“The owner of the hotel asked me to put this board so that some stranded pilgrims can live here for free,” he said.

Harendra earned Rs. 7,000 a month. He said till last year the hotel earnings reached about Rs. 8 lakh a year. This year, the hotel did a business of only Rs. 1.5 lakh. He said some rescued pilgrims stayed in the hotel from June 21 to 24. “Though the pilgrims could stay for free they did give some money out of generosity.”

This generosity is not enough for Harendra. He will find some other means of earning a decent livelihood and also wait for the pilgrims to return.


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