JAMMU, Jan 20: The Congress today expressed serious concern over the curtailment of Amarnath pilgrimage duration from 60 days to 40 days and demanded that the Yatra must commence from auspicious Jyeshth Purnima, a practice which has been going on for the last several years.
Former minister and senior Congress leader, Raman Bhalla, while addressing residents of Nanak Nagar Sector-7, said that those who have been campaigning for a shorter Amarnath yatra period, should realize that as a result of militancy related violence thousands of people, connected with tourist trade have lost their job while large number of ponywallas and porters derive their survival from bumper Amarnath pilgrim traffic. “Had there been no opposition to a longer period of the yatra, traders, hoteliers, transporters, porters and ponywallas would have been the most beneficiaries of these pilgrims,” he added.
Stating that Kashmir turmoil has already resulted in steep decline in Amarnath Yatra figures and if the pilgrimage period is curtailed to 40 days, down from last year’s 48 days and the usual 60 days, it will severely hit the people associated with pilgrimage tourism in the State.
“Even as authorities have cited weather and logistical constraints, the Government should start the yatra when the conditions are conducive but the pilgrimage duration must not be less than at least two months,” he said and appealed to the State Government to make an all-weather road in Baltal so that in the coming years, the Yatra can be undertaken with greater safety and security.
Bhalla also suggested that for the interest of tourism related trade in Jammu, the Government should allow entire Amarnath Yatra from Bhagwati Nagar base camp, instead of sending pilgrims from Lakhanpur-via-Dhar road, Samba-via-Mansar and Kunjwani bypass,
Bhalla also asked the Government to set a deadline for all the under-construction projects to avoid further delay. He said that work of Manda Zoo should be completed at earliest.