8 July, 2019
It is the season of pilgrimages in India, and currently, you have the Puri Rath Yatra as well as the Char Dham Yatra packages happening. For many people, undertaking such trips are a spiritual fulfillment and a once in a lifetime kind of wish. Hence, they are usually very upbeat about taking such trips. Perhaps, this has the reason why it has been said that this time around there has been a record crowd for the Char Dham Yatra.
However, while the record crowd happens to the good news, it is also true that there has been a record number or higher deaths of people who are on the Char Dham Yatra. Especially, deaths due to cardiac issues at higher altitudes, and among seniors, have been reported. This is a cause for worry, and need to be taken seriously. The Government has set up health check-up points at certain places and is creating awareness among people that, they should report to the same, in case of even the smallest health issue like feeling exhausted. But, it is also essential for people planning to travel to consider all aspects, and understand the same, before undertaking this travel.
The Char Dham Yatra to Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath, and Badrinath is one that is undertaken by many people annually, and these places are situated at a high altitude. These places have serpentine routes, with exhausting treks, and the depleted oxygen levels at these altitudes make it worse. All these places more than 3000 meters above sea level, and it is quite likely for older people to feel uncomfortable. But, apart from the basic treatment, if anything serious happens, people may have to be airlifted to hospitals with facilities equipped to handle such cases. Plus, there is a lot of road construction work going on in these routes right now, and this adds to the delay, and that makes it more exhausting for the seniors.
Also, most of the pilgrims were not aware or prepared for the climate and the challenges of the trek. People need to be told that they need to walk outdoors for long hours, climb, and trek, continuously to undertake these trips. Tour operators, forego all these for the sake of business and just blindly book the pilgrims as they come. Almost none of the undergo any health checkups before starting the trip as it is not mandatory to do so. This is mandatory for Manasasarovar Yatra, but not yet for the Char Dham one.
There was, however, one case, wherein a person died due to cardiac arrest, and his family mentioned that he had actually undergone a checkup before starting, but was done in by the delay in airlifting him to the equipped hospital for treatment. Hence, it has to be understood that there are many challenges involved in this Yatra and that it is good to be aware of all these and make an informed decision.
How to stay safe?
Unless one has been keeping really physically fit, with constant walks, and treks once in a while, one should not attempt to undertake such Yatra. In any case, a doctor’s visit and a complete health check-up are a must before the Yatra. One should be aware of all the situations like the climate, the routes, the facilities, emergency medical aids, etc. The key is not in trying to do too much in one go. One should give time to the body to get adjusted to the high altitudes and not stretch too much.
The nearest check up point should be visited in case of even a slight issue, and proper check-up should be done. If any issue is felt, such that it is better not to continue, then it is advisable to stay back, relax, get well, and return home, rather than risk one’s life.
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