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Costly ride

Raju Gusain |

The tough 16 km trek to Kedarnath demands a high level of fitness and in the past few years the helicopter service to the pilgrimage centre has gained a lot of popularity.

However, there have been regular complaints of black-marketing of tickets by aviation companies, prompting the Uttarakhand government to issue helpline numbers and email IDs recently.

This season, too, many helicopter companies were accused of charging higher prices from devotees. The practice adopted is simple. Most pilgrims book online but to ferry tourists arriving at the last minute the companies make a quick buck by charging exorbitantly.

Acting on complaints, Rudraprayag district magistrate Manglesh Ghildiyal recently conducted an inspection and asked the aviation companies to book tickets of visitors based on Aadhaar card numbers.

This year nine aviation companies are providing air service for Kedarnath. The round trip costs between Rs 6,350 and Rs 7,300 based on the location of the landing ground.

Additional chief secretary civil aviation Omprakash said, “The pilgrims can complain by making a phone call or sending email to the concerned department or district magistrate.”

Pawan Hans, Pinnacle and UT Air are operating from Fata and their round-trip airfare has been fixed at Rs 6,700 per head. Trans Bharat and Aryan have their landing ground at Guptkashi and the companies offer the Kedarnath trip for Rs 7,300. Himalayan, Heritage and Global Vectra Helicrop conduct the same tour for Rs 6,350 from Sirsi. The pilgrims can complain to the

Rudraprayag DM by email/phone or to the Uttarakhand state civil aviation department.

In 2016, over 90,000 visitors opted for choppers to visit Kedarnath. But the aviation companies fail to operate in a transparent manner and therefore the Uttarakhand government was forced to announce a fixed tariff.