4821 pilgrims pay obeisance; yatra remains suspended from Baltal

Avtar Bhat
JAMMU, July 6: The holy Amarnath yatra remained suspended from shorter Baltal route for third consecutive day today in view of the incidences of shooting stones and slippery track. However, it proceeded smoothly from the Pahalgam route today after remaining suspended for two days. The helicopter service operated from both the routes to holy cave as usual.
The yatra was suspended on Wednesday on both routes in the wake of landslides and shooting stones at several places and intermittent rains in the Yatra area.

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A Police Officer on yatra duty said the yatra remained suspended from the Baltal route in Central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district due to landslides near the base camp and in Danibagh area of Kangan on Srinagar-Leh Highway.
The landslide at Danibagh also forced the closure of the Srinagar-Leh road – the only road-link connecting the valley with Ladakh region.
He said on the 9th day of Shri Amarnathji Yatra, 4,821 pilgrims paid obeisance at holy cave and till date 73023 Yatris had the darshan of the Shivling at the cave shrine.
Meanwhile, there was heavy rush of pilgrims at Baltal base camp where over 20,000 yatris are stranded for last three days. In view of the shooting stones and slippery track as well as closure of Ladkah Highway due to landslides, the yatra has been suspended for the time being from Baltal to holy cave. However, the yatra will proceed smoothly from traditional Nunwan -Chandanwari track.
Meanwhile, a pilgrim from West Bengal, Sanjay Santra, died near the cave shrine due to cardiac arrest, taking the toll of dead during ongoing pilgrimage which started on June 28 to 12.

Governor, N N Vohra addressing meeting of officers at Baltal base camp on Friday.
Governor, N N Vohra addressing meeting of officers at Baltal base camp on Friday.

An official said the yatra remained suspended from the Baltal route in Central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district due to landslides near the base camp and in Danibagh area of Kangan on Srinagar-Leh highway.
The landslide at Danibagh also forced the closure of Srinagar-Leh road – the only road-link connecting the valley with Ladakh region.
According to Deputy Commissioner, Anantnag, Mohammed Younis Malik who is also the Yatra Officer said 5564 pilgrims left Nunwan-Pahalgam base camp for holy cave and stranded yatris at transit camps of Chandanwari, Sheshnag and Panchtarni also left for onwards sojourn. He said the Pahalgam track though being lengthy is safe route for pilgrimage in comparison to shortest Baltal track.
The DC said about 1300 pilgrims reported at Nunwan Base camp this evening and they will leave for onwards sojourn tomorrow provided the weather remains pleasant. The weather was better today and the yatra proceeded smoothly on this track.
To ascertain the situation, Governor N N Vohra who is also the chairman of Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) today visited Baltal, Panjtarni and Nunwan Pahalgam camps along with the Chief Executive Officer, Umang Narula of the Board and Advisors.
On the directions of Governor to Umang Narula, the rescue operations were launched early today to evacuate stranded Yatris from Panjtarni to Baltal.
The virtually non-stop rainfall over the past several days has adversely affected the track conditions, particularly on the Baltal-Sangam-holy cave route. Besides, landslides at several places the maximum disruption has been caused by shooting stones and the sinking of the track at certain locations. As directed by the Governor, sick pilgrims as well as the aged and women Yatris were amongst the first to be airlifted when three Indian Air Force MI-17 Helicopters started operating sorties from Panjtarni to Baltal.
Cancelling a pre-scheduled tour to Jammu, in connection with an important engagement, Governor Vohra, accompanied by B B Vyas, Advisor to Governor, and Umang Narula, , visited Baltal, Panjtarni and Nunwan (Pahalgam) Yatra Camps for a first hand assessment of the ground situation.
Besides, holding meetings with the Camp Directors and senior civil officers of various departments, Deputy Commissioners and SSPs Ganderbal and Anantnag districts, officers of Police, Army, BRO etc, the Governor met the pilgrims to hear their problems.
After discussions with Deputy Commissioners, SSPs, Camp Directors and all other concerned officers, Vohra gave directions regarding the cut-off timings for the upward and downward movements on the Baltal-Panjtarni-Baltal Track; urgent deployment of additional Police personnel, MRTP rescue teams and SDRF teams at all the critical locations on the tracks to regulate the movement of yatris, particularly those who are unwell.
He also issued on spot directives regarding urgent deployment of additional labour for the immediate restoration of the damaged portions of the track besides, to stand-by for repairing any arising problem; installation of lights along the damaged/vulnerable portions of the track; deployment of a Magistrate at Brarimarg; Camp Directors and Police to ensure strict enforcement of the rates charged for tents, ponies, porters, palkis.
He particularly stressed that the authorities should ensure against any overcharging; as the Baltal route has become in-operative due to falling stones/landslides. Camp Director Baltal was instructed to see that Yatris who possess registration to travel on the Baltal route should be facilitated to undertake their pilgrimage via Pahalgam route if they so wish.
The Governor said that J&K Bank should be approached for urgently establishing facility for disbursal of cash at Panjtarni till an ATM is installed there.
With a view to regulate the movement of pilgrims from Jammu onwards, till the Baltal track becomes operational, the Governor convened an emergency meeting at the Raj Bhavan Srinagar this evening for taking appropriate decisions.
He directed the BSNL to restore and immediately improve the quality of telecommunications at various yatra camps and enhance the band width by tomorrow.
The Divisional Commissioner was directed to keep a close liaison with the BSNL to ensure early restoration; representative of the Hindustan Petroleum Aviation was directed to provide refuelling facilities for the IAF choppers airlifting stranded passengers from Panjtarni; chairman J&K Bank was directed to install micro ATMs at Panjtarni and make available cash to the stranded yatris early tomorrow morning.
The Development Commissioner Roads and Buildings Srinagar and Chief Engineer BRO were directed to initiate immediate measures to provide safety from rolling stones at the affected track portions between Rail Pathri and Brarimarg by pooling resources.
The Amarnath-bound convoy, which usually leaves Jammu in the early hours, was not allowed for the second day today to avoid overcrowding at the twin base camps in the Valley, an official of the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) said.
He said a large number of pilgrims were held up at various camps en route to the cave shrine, including Baltal, Nunwan-Pahalgam, Sheshnag and Panjtarni, because of heavy rains which triggered landslides and shooting of stones along the arduous tracks over the past couple of days.
However, on the directives of Governor the authorities today evacuated 326 Amarnath pilgrims, who were stranded at Panjtarni due to heavy rainfall, to the Baltal base camp.
With hundreds of pilgrims reaching Jammu daily, over 12,000 yatris are stranded in the winter capital. Besides, Yatri Niwas at Bhagwati Nagar and Aasa Ram Bapu Ashram, they are camping in various community halls and lodges in the City, a yatra officer said.


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