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Heavy snowfall at cave, tracks set to make clearance operations tough

Advance teams may leave for shrine in April-May

Sanjeev Pargal

JAMMU, Feb 13: Though there has been heavy snowfall this year in the entire Kashmir valley including holy cave of Shri Amarnath Ji, located at a height of 12,756 feet from sea level in Anantnag district of South Kashmir Himalayas and twin tracks of Chandanwari and Baltal, the authorities were set to start snow clearance operations followed by repair and widening of tracks ahead of the schedule to ensure that the annual pilgrimage proceeds well in time.
Official sources told the Excelsior that since major spells of snowfall generally ends in March, the Pahalgam Development Authority (PDA) would start snow clearance operations in the month of April while Public Works Department (PWD) would undertake similar task along Baltal route.
“The snowfall this year has been unprecedented especially along Shri Amarnath ji cave area and the twin tracks, leading to the holy cave shrine, from Chandanwari in Pahalgam, Anantnag and Baltal in Ganderbal district. The snow clearance operations are likely to require massive efforts, which would be launched well ahead of the schedule to start pilgrimage on scheduled date on June 29,” sources said.
When approached for comments, Additional Chief Executive Officer (ACEO), Shri Amarnath Ji Shrine Board, Jatinder Singh, said as soon as the twin tracks are accessible, the concerned authorities would start snow clearance operations.
“There has been heavy snowfall this year and it continues till March. The clearance operations would start and the tracks would be made fit for movement of the pilgrims,” Singh said, adding all arrangements would be made for the yatris.
Forty-day long pilgrimage this year is scheduled to start on June 29 and would conclude on August 7 coinciding with Shravan Purnima and Raksha Bandhan.
According to sources, both Chandanwari and Baltal tracks had been widened at some places post-Amarnath yatra last year especially in the months of September and October. They said track at some more places, wherever possible, will be widened during snow clearance operations, which are undertaken by the Pahalgam Development Authority along 45-kilometres Nunwan-Chandanwari-Holy Cave track and Public Works Department at 13-kilometres long Baltal route.
Sources, however, said that registration for Shri Amarnath Ji shrine will be opened in 433 branches of Jammu and Kashmir Bank, Punjab National Bank and Yes Bank across the country from March 1 this year with 15,000 pilgrims to be registered per day-7500 each for Nunwan and Baltal tracks.
“The on-line registration has been done away with but Group Registration will be done at the bank branches. Under the Group Registration, only one person from the Group can do registration of all Group members, subject to completion of formalities,” sources said.
A maximum of six lakh pilgrims can be registered this year for annual pilgrimage of Shri Amarnath ji shrine from both the tracks as the yatra has been confined to 40 days. However, the people undertaking pilgrimage by air from Pahalgam or Baltal would be above the registration quota of 15,000 per day.
Sources pointed out that security and other arrangements for Shri Amarnath Ji yatra would be set into motion in the month of April and May. The advance teams of mountaineers sent by Pahalgam Development Authority to the cave shrine to assess condition of snowfall were likely to be deputed in the month of April. This helps the Authority in clearance of snow from the track, they said.

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