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Published on: June 5, 2021, 11:11 a.m.
PSUs to the religion’s cause
  • The Badrinath masterplan includes construction of a museum, an art gallery and dissemination of information about dashavtar through a light-and-sound programme

By Yeshi Seli. Assistant Editor, Business India

One of India’s most revered tourist places is the hill town of Badrinath. Situated in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district, at an elevation of 10,170 ft above sea level, this town had attracted nearly 1.24 million tourists in 2019. Though the inflow of tourists came down drastically in 2020 to 275,000 due to Covid, the progress of converting the town into a ‘spiritual smart hill town’ is already underway.

In line with the development work, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) has been signed between the oil & gas public sector undertakings (such as Indian Oil Corporation, Bharat Petroleum Corporation, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation, Oil & Natural Gas Corporation and the Gas Authority of India) and Shri Badrinath Uttan Charitable Trust for construction and redevelopment work.

According to the MoU, the PSUs would be contributing Rs99.60 crore in the first phase of the developmental activities, which include river embankment work, building all-terrain vehicular path, building bridges, beautifying existing bridges, establishing gurukul facilities with accommodation, building toilets and drinking water facilities, as also installing streetlights and mural paintings. ONGC, GAIL and IOCL are to contribute Rs25 crore each towards the project, while HPCL will contribute Rs20 crore and BPCL Rs5.5 crore.

This is perhaps the first time that the PSUs under one administrative ministry have pledged funds for developing a religious shrine. “The oil & gas PSUs will contribute to the development work of not only Badrinath but also Kedarnath, Uttarkashi, Yamunotri and Gangotri,” says Dharmendra Pradhan, minister, Petroleum & Natural Gas. “Badrinath will be developed without compromising on the religious sanctity and mythological importance of the region”.

Economic development

“The holy Badrinath dham is not only a centre for faith for millions of Hindus across the world, but it also is a major centre of India’s pilgrimage economy, with a great potential to facilitate regional economic development, generate employment and improve quality of lives,” Pradhan explains. Concurs Tirath Singh Rawat, chief minister of Uttarakhand: “With the help and concerted efforts of PSUs and Uttarakhand government, we are hopeful that this project would be completed within the next three years”.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi too had spoken about the beautification and development of Badrinath in September 2020. The cost of the project was estimated at Rs424 crore and the time taken to complete the project, about five years. The Badrinath masterplan, which includes construction of a museum, an art gallery and dissemination of information about dashavtar through a light-and-sound programme, has been prepared in accordance with the Himalayan location of the temple.

Meanwhile, the Uttarakhand government has suspended the char-dham (Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri) yatra this year in the wake of the spike in Covid cases. As a result, Badrinath will be closed for tourists and only priests will be permitted to offer prayers.

The state government had received a lot of flak for permitting the khumb mela to take place, which has been termed as a ‘super-spreader’ of Covid in the state and the rest of the country. Uttarakhand is among the states with the highest positivity rates in the country at present and is in a state of a health emergency. Reliance Foundation has contributed Rs5 crore to the hill state towards countering the spread of the pandemic and anti-parasitic medicine Ivermectin is being distributed in the state as an antidote. 

However, people, as also the authorities are optimistic that this phase shall pass and, once the situation is eased and the spread of Covid is countered, tourists will begin to return. Till that time, the redevelopment of Badrinath Dham will continue.

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