gurvinder singh
KOLKATA, 20 JUNE: The stories of death emanating from Uttarakhand, and about thousands of hapless people stranded in the flood-hit state, have put off many prospective tourists from the city from travelling there in the near future.
Local tour operators say that hundreds of pre-puja bookings to Uttarakhand have either been cancelled, or have been changed to more traditional favourites among tourists, such as Goa, Kerala and Rajasthan, which are being perceived as safer.
"We have September bookings for Kedarnath and other destinations in the area, but they are likely to be cancelled given the present situation," said Mr Mridul Banerjee, a partner at Banerjee Special, pioneers in the tourism industry.
He admitted that losses would be incurred at the hands of nature’s fury, but added that the order of the day is to lend a helping hand to those who are suffering, instead of giving in to a profits-induced way of thinking.
In an emotional tone, he said: "We have faced losses from the pre-tour arrangements, but that hardly matters when people there have lost everything."
The mood was similarly sombre at the offices of Kundu Special, another prominent tour operator. They have 74 tourists stuck in Uttarakhand at present, none of whom has any hopes of an immediate return.
"An initial group of 36 tourists, who departed on 8 June, was scheduled to return tomorrow, but they are caught in Badrinath. Another 38 people are trapped in Sitapur, a few kilometers from Kedarnath," said Mr Sishendu Purkait, an accountant at Kundu Special. He added that the tourists are safe and are being provided  with food and water.
But some other leading tour operators from the city denied they were facing any losses due to the cancellation of trips to Uttarakhand, where the need for restoration of the Kedarnath temple means that the shrine is likely to remain off-limits for several months. 
“We have several other holiday destinations for people to choose from, and so the question of losses doesn’t arise,” said one such tour operator, requesting anonymity.