Haridwar: Around 500 traders, hoteliers and street vendors near Laxman Jhula are claiming to be affected following the closure of the iron suspension bridge in Rishikesh after the state government marked it unsafe and ordered it to be closed for vehicular and pedestrian movement last week.
The bridge was a major means of crossing the Ganga and with its closure, locals say they are facing various challenges, including difficulty in reaching hospitals, as they now have to take an alternate route via Barrage and Garud Chatti, which is an almost 10-km diversion. Traders in the area claim that besides commuting problems, there is a huge dip in business as well since Laxman Jhula was an iconic tourist spot.
Narendra Singh, president of Laxman Jhula Hotel and Guesthouse Association, said, “Around 500 traders, including hoteliers, street vendors and operator of yoga centres have been affected by the government’s decision to close the 450-foot-long bridge. Before closing the bridge suddenly, the government should have given us an alternative. We have worked hard for several years to turn the city into the yoga capital of the world, and such decisions impact tourism adversely.”
Echoing similar sentiments, local resident Tribuvan Chauhan said that everybody knows that the bridge is quite old but the government shouldn’t have closed it all of a sudden. “This is a big problem for children as well as their parents. Most of the schools are located on the other side of the Ganga. Most children in our locality used to take the Laxman Jhula bridge to go to school, but now they have to walk all the way to Ram Jhula which is also facing an extra load due to kanwar yatra,” he said, adding that the schools should declare a holiday at least till the kanwar yatra is over.
Another local resident, KS Negi said that in case of a medical emergency, they have to now take a longer route to reach the nearest hospital which means that lives can be lost due to the bridge’s sudden closure. “The government runs only one dispensary near Laxman Jhula which has only first-aid facility. In case of an emergency, we have to go via Barrage and Garud Chatti to reach the nearest hospital, which means 10 km extra.”
Meanwhile, yoga centres on the banks of Ganga have also been affected as tourists especially foreigners are also finding it difficult to reach the centres.