For years, he has been passionately trekking the hills of Uttarakhand to inspect developmental and various other works. But yesterday (Saturday) when Chief Secretary Subhash Kumar trekked 23 km to inspect the ongoing reconstruction works on the Chardham yatra route in floods-ravaged Rudraprayag district, he was taken aback.
At many places, Kumar found a series of such works were going on at snail’s pace, which he thought might hamper the yatra. The chardham pilgrimage is all set to begin on May 2. And after hours-long monitoring, Kumar finally lost his cool and warned Lalit Mohan, Chief Engineer, PWD, and top officials of the World Bank that he would suspend them if the work was not completed in time.
With only 26 days left for the start of the yatra, Kumar, to retire from service on April 30, has virtually made the Chardham yatra route his second home these days, visiting disaster-hit districts such as Uttarkashi and Rudraprayag frequently.
Political observers say the Chardham yatra, the backbone of the the Garhwal region’s economy, is going to be a big issue in the general elections in the hill state where polling will be held on May 7.
Only a week ago, Kumar had claimed that the reconstruction works related to highways and roads in the Chardham yatra circuit, housing top shrines, including Kedarnath and Badrinath, was on full swing. But when he went to Rudraprayag on Saturday, things were different. “I am still confident that most of the work will be completed before the Chardham yatra,” said Kumar. The state’s top-most bureaucrat’s statement came at a time when doubts were being cast on the slow pace of reconstruction works related to the roads and bridges in the area.
Devastating floods on June 16-17 last year wreaked havoc in Uttarakhand, leaving nearly 5,000 people dead and adversely impacted the local economy.
The Cabinet committee for Uttarakhand has already approved Rs 7342 crore for the reconstruction and development works in the disaster-hit areas. Out of this, the state government has already sanctioned projects worth Rs 1,700 crore. This money has been used for the work of road construction, drinking water, irrigation, tourism and housing. Rs 556 crore have been given to irrigation department alone for flood control and other works concerning river embankments.
The chief secretary said that a strong system is being made for effective implementation of these reconstruction works. Project management unit has also been constituted. Amit Negi, secretary, PWD, is the head of this. The additional secretary Dilip Jawalkar is the the project manager for road and bride development unit. Several committees have also been constituted to monitor these works.
But the main opposition BJP is not satisfied with these works. “The government is not doing anything on the Char dham yatra. This will be reflected in the poll outcome where you will see that BJP will win all the five Lok Sabha seats this time,” said Ajay Bhatt, leader of the opposition.