The annual pilgrimage to Amarnath Cave is taking place after two years and the Union Territory administration is reaching out to all aspects of it being undertaken in a smooth manner so that pilgrims enjoy their yatra and accomplish the religious rituals as per century-old traditions. Anticipating heavy tourist rush this year, the government has asked for a helicopter service for pilgrims directly from Srinagar to Panchtarni, which is the last drop-off point, about 6 kilometres from the shrine. As of now, helicopter services are available for the pilgrims from Baltal and Pahalgam to Panchtarni – pilgrims either walk or ride a mule or in a palanquin to the Amarnath shrine from this point. Both Baltal and Pahalgam are about 90 kilometres from Srinagar.

This year, a new route is being added – from Budgam (near the Srinagar airport) to Panchtarni. But Amarnath Board should check if it would be feasible to land the choppers at the foothill of the Amarnath cave. As of now, only the choppers that ferry VVIPs land near the cave. This for sure would also reduce distance and more yatris can visit the shrine in a day. This service would be used only by few pilgrims because of the cost involved and government should also come out with the fare list. This would also mean less number of pilgrims on road leading up to Baltal and Pahalgam, which, in turn, will also reduce the risk. As per the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) framed on the directions of Supreme Court of India, only 15,000 registered pilgrims are allowed beyond Pahalgham and Baltal in a day – including 7,500 each from Baltal and Pahalgam track. This is excluding pilgrims who would travel by helicopters on either route to Panjtarni.

This year, the yatra would go on for 43 days starting June 30. Also, no pilgrim and other persons would be allowed for the yatra without the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags. If pilgrims would come for yatra through flights or trains, the facilities pertaining to the provision of RFID tags would be kept at the Airport and Railway Station. The RFID tags would help in tracking a pilgrim and let them know where the person is. RFID has lots of benefits and among them the most important one is that it would find out if there are any unauthorised persons, which would help the security agencies to identify them.

Courtesy : Brighter Kashmir

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