JAMMU, Aug 17: The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has agreed to provide additional para-military forces for security of holy cave shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi ji, located in Trikuta Hills of Katra town in Reasi district.
Union Home Secretary Anil Goswami is said to have given an assurance to this effect at a high-level security review meeting with police, civil, Shrine Board and para-military officials here this afternoon before returning to New Delhi after his first two days visit to Jammu after assumption of the charges as the Home Secretary.
Mr Goswami reportedly directed for setting up a Joint Control Rooms comprising all agencies engaged in the security of the hole cave shrine, 13 kilometers track from Katra to Bhawan and Katra town, the base camp of the shrine involving Army, police, Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board (SMVDSB) and CRPF.
In two hours long high level security review of Mata Vaishno Devi ji shrine, the Home Secretary directed for multi-layer security at Mata Vaishno Devi Bhawan and formulating a disaster management programme to meet with any eventuality.
Mr Goswami, who also reviewed security at Mata Vaishno Devi track on his return from the shrine to Katra on battery car up to Adh-Kunwari and foot onwards, directed Jammu and Kashmir Police (JKP) to ensure that all 35 Close Circuit Television Cameras (CCTVs) installed at Katra, 13 kilometers track and Bhawan were made functional at the earliest and left out areas were also covered with the CCTVs. He took serious note of the fact that out of 35, 33 CCTVs at Katra, Bhawan and track were non-functional for the past quite sometime.
Mr Goswami, who happened to be first CEO of SMVDSB when the shrine was taken over from `baridars’ in 1986, said Joint Control Rooms of all security agencies, civil administration and Shrine Board should be set up at Mata Vaishno Devi Bhawan, Adh-Kunwari and Katra within the period of one month.
“The communication should be strengthened and the Control Rooms should be updated 24×7,” he added.
Director General of Police (DGP) Ashok Prasad, Additional DGP (Security) VK Singh, Principal Secretary to Governor and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of SMVDSB Navin Choudhary, Additional CEO Dr Mandeep K Bhandari, IGP Jammu, Rajesh Kumar, IG CRPF Kuldeep Dhar, IG CID Dr B Srinivas, DIG Udhampur-Doda range Gareeb Dass and Deputy Commissioner Reasi, Shahid Iqbal attended the meeting apart from the MHA officials, who had been accompanying Mr Goswami.
Sharing inputs the MHA had on security threat to Mata Vaishno Devi shrine with the top brass in over two hours long meeting at the State Guest House here, Mr Goswami, who visited the cave shrine early this morning and paid obeisance to the widely revered Goddess, is understood to have stressed for further strengthening security arrangements at the Bhawan, entire 13 kilometers track and Katra town, which served as base camp to the shrine.
He called upon the officials of different agencies to work out the strength of para-military forces required by them for providing multi-layer security at the Bhawan and other places and communicate it to the MHA. He said the MHA was ready to provide additional companies for the security of the holy cave shrine, which had been receiving over 1 crore pilgrims every year for the past two years.
Though the disaster management was in place for Mata Vaishno Devi Bhawan, which on some occasions received as many as 35,000 to 40,000 pilgrims per day, Mr Goswami stressed for proper formulation of disaster management programme for the shrine so that the agencies were not found wanting in case of any eventuality.
He listed the disaster management and making functional all CCTVs in the shrine area and other places as “two major priorities”. The MHA, he said, was ready to extend any support required by the State agencies in implementing the disaster management plan and making the CCTVs functional.
Authorities briefed the Union Home Secretary that only one CCTV each was functional at Katra and Vaishno Devi Bhawan while rest 33 were out of order. Taking serious note of this “major security lapse”, Mr Goswami was reported to have directed the authorities to make all existing CCTVs functional and install more CCTVs at the left out place.
The police officers assured him that they were on the job and the CCTVs would be made functional at the earliest possible time.
The Home Secretary called for strengthening communication and co-ordination between all stakeholders engaged in providing security cover to the shrine area, track and Katra town.
Earlier in the morning, Mr Goswami along with other MHA officials and his family members visited Mata Vaishno Devi shrine by air from Katra. DIG Udhampur-Doda range Gareeb Dass and SSP Reasi Raghubir Singh accompanied them.
Mr Goswami and others accompanying him paid obeisance to Goddess Vaishno Devi. He also discussed security arrangements at the Bhawan with local police, Army, CRPF and Shrine Board officials.
Due to disruption in helicopter service, the Home Secretary and other officials returned on battery car up to Adh-Kunwari and on foot from Adh-Kunwari to Katra.
He returned to New Delhi this evening.