After 3 years’ disruption, Amarnath yatra may last 2 months next year if no 3rd wave

Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha chairing a meeting of the SASB in Jammu on Wednesday.
Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha chairing a meeting of the SASB in Jammu on Wednesday.

Cable Car project’s feasibility report at advanced stage

*Efforts to extend stay of yatris by promoting other religious places

Sanjeev Pargal

JAMMU, Dec 29: Annual pilgrimage to holy cave shrine of Shri Amarnath Ji is set to be for “maximum period” next year, most likely for two months, and efforts will be made to attract the pilgrims to various other religious places including Kheer Bhawani, Mattan, Sharda temples etc to extend their stay to benefit the locals.
The feasibility report and cost involved for running Cable Car to the shrine located in South Kashmir Himalayas is also in the advanced stage.
This surfaced during a meeting of Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) which was chaired by Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha and was attended by members of the Board including Swami Avdeshanand Giri Ji Maharaj, Pt Bhajan Sopori, Dr Devi Prasad Shetty, DC Raina, Prof Anita Billawaria, Tripta Dhawan, Dr Sudershan Kumar and Prof Vishwamurti Shastri.
Chief Secretary Dr Arun Kumar Mehta, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) SASB Nitishwar Kumar, CEO SMVDSB Ramesh Kumar, Additional CEO SASB, former Additional CEO SASB and other senior officers were also present in the meeting.
An official handout issued by the Government, however, gave no details about the yatra except saying that various issues related to new Yatri Niwas Bhawans at Srinagar, Jammu and Ramban figured at the meeting.
Some of the members, however, told the Excelsior that there was a view for holding annual Shri Amarnath Ji Yatra in 2022 for a maximum period as previous three consecutive yatras have been disrupted–2019 due to August 5 decisions and 2020 and 2021 in view of Coronavirus pandemic.
“There was a view that the pilgrimage should be conducted for a period of two months and this proposal is likely to be accepted in next meeting of the SASB which is expected to take place in January-February,” they said but added that the Government will take COVID situation into consideration before taking a decision as some of the Health experts have suggested that third wave of COVID could peak in February because of the Omicron variant.
According to some of the members, there is also a proposal to attract Shri Amarnath Ji pilgrims to other religious places like Kheer Bhawani, Mattan, Sharda temples etc to extend their stay in the Valley which will benefit those connected with tourism a lot.
As far as the Cable Car project for Shri Amarnath Ji shrine is concerned, the feasibility report is at advanced stage. Cost of construction is also being studied, they said.
“Focus of today’s meeting remained at providing maximum possible facilities to Shri Amarnath Ji pilgrims including under construction Bhavans at Srinagar, Ramban and Jammu,” sources said.
They added that the members were asked to give their suggestions, both in writing or verbally, about making the yatra more smooth for pilgrims who will come from across the country
“The idea is to provide maximum facilities to the pilgrims in Jammu and Kashmir right from Lakhanpur to the holy cave shrine,” they added.
It may be mentioned here that last three successive Amarnath Ji pilgrimage have been badly impacted.
Ahead of Central Government’s August 5, 2019 decisions scrapping special status of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcation of erstwhile State into two Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh, Shri Amarnath Ji yatra was suspended nearly a fortnight before conclusion.
In 2020 and 2021, the pilgrimage wasn’t held due to COVID pandemic and only symbolic ‘Chhari Mubarak’ was taken to the cave shrine by the Mahant Deependera Giri Ji and Sadhus.
This year, however, if COVID remains under control, the yatra could last at least couple of months.