Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu today laid the foundation stone in Badrinath for the final location survey of an ambitious Rs 43,000-crore project to link the four important Hindu shrines in the hills of Uttarakhand. The Char Dham rail circuit will enable devotees to visit the famous Himalayan shrines — Gangotri, Yamunotri, Badrinath and Kedarnath — even in adverse climatic conditions, Prabhu said.
Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat, who accompanied the union minister at the foundation laying ceremony, described the proposed project as a milestone in the development of the state. For Gangotri and Yamunotri, the railway line will start from Doiwala near Dehradun, while for Kedarnath and Badrinath, it will start from Karnaprayag.
According to officials of the Railway ministry the Doiwala-Gangotri line will be 131 km long and for Yamunotri another 22 km of tracks will be laid from Maneri. For Kedarnath, a 99 km rail link will be laid between Karnaprayag and Sonprayag and for Badrinath another 75 km long track will be laid between Karnaprayag and Joshimath.
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An estimated Rs 43,292 crore is likely to be spent on the project, they said. Earlier, accompanied by Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh and the chief minister, Prabhu paid obeisance at the Badrinath shrine dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The Agriculture Minister also laid the foundation stone of a agricultural science centre near Joshimath.
The Char Dham rail link project is the second major gift from the Narendra Modi government to Uttarakhand after the Rs 12,000 crore all-weather Char Dham roads project whose foundation stone was laid by the Prime Minister in Dehradun, shortly ahead of the state assembly polls. “People all over the country want to visit Char Dham at least once in their lifetime. A rail link project in the area will make it more convenient for them as the pilgrimage will not have to face obstructions like landslides and bad weather,” Prabhu said.
He said the most modern technology will be used in the project to ensure that no harm is caused to the fragile Himalayan ecology. A large portion of the budget for the project will be spent on measures to prevent landslides and conserve the environment, he said. Railway reservation counters will also be set up in Kedarnath and Badrinath to save residents of surrounding areas the trouble of going all the way to the district headquarters to get a train ticket.