The rains and cloudbursts of June 16 caused unimaginable damage to the northern hill-state. People died in thousands, entire villages were swept away and even the shrines could not escape devastation. The calamity also crushed the backbone of the state’s economy — tourism — leaving thousands of locals like Tiwari, who are dependent on this industry for their bread and butter, wringing their hands in despair. And yet, until three weeks ago it was all picture-perfect.
Uttarakhand was among the top 10 domestic tourist destinations. At No. 7 it was already drawing 15 million tourists a year and the state tourism master plan had projected 47 million domestic tourists in 2013. According to industry estimates, the Hemkund Saheb Gurudwara and the Char Dhams drew some 15 million tourists after the shrines were thrown open for pilgrims in May this year.
The locals lent life as well as variety to the tourism industry that serviced the lower and middle class budget tourists, most of whom were pilgrims. They ran the dhabhas or roadside eateries, hotels, pony services, taxis and some of them even worked as priests at local temples en route to the Char Dham yatra. “Nearly 4 million people are directly or indirectly associated with tourism,” says former tourism minister Lt Gen (retd) TPS Rawat. Business was brisk and the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PHDCCI) anticipated a Rs. 23,312 crore tourism revenue in the current season.
Hindustan Times, Dehradun, July 08, 2013