JAMMU, June 1: The Cabinet Sub Committee (CSC) on ‘Rehabilitation of Mule Owners’ operating between Katra and holy cave shrine of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Ji, today called upon all stakeholders including Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board (SMVDSB) authorities to come out with suggestions in writing on the rehabilitation process to help them firm up an opinion.
At its first meeting here this afternoon, which was chaired by Deputy Chief Minister, Kavinder Gupta, the CSC decided to meet again on June 18 as it called upon the stakeholders to submit their views including suggestions and roadmap to implement them within a fortnight so that all issues are discussed in the next meeting, official sources told the Excelsior.
Besides the Deputy Chief Minister, the CSC members present in the meeting included Housing and Urban Development Minister Sat Sharma `CA’, Forests, Ecology and Environment Minister, Rajiv Jasrotia and Animal, Sheep Husbandry and Fisheries Minister, Abdul Ghani Kohli.
Three other CSC members, all of whom hailed from Kashmir, gave a miss to the meeting. They included Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Minister Abdul Rehman Veeri, Horticulture, Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Basharat Bukhari and Finance Minister Syed Altaf Ahmad Bukhari.
The CSC members sought views of Government and non-Government stakeholders to ensure that the rehabilitation scheme is comprehensive and taken into account the concerns of all including the equine owners.
“The issues have to be resolved in such a way that the equine owners, SMVDSB, administration and, above all, Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Ji pilgrims, who visit in large number to the cave shrine daily, are not affected or face problems. The concerns of all stakeholders has to be taken into account,” the CSC observer.
SMVDSB Chief Executive Officer, Umang Narula, Additional CEO Anshul Garg, Deputy Commissioner, Reasi, G Prasanna Ramaswamy, Sub Divisional Magistrate (SDM) Katra and officers from Housing and Urban Development Department, Municipal Committee, Katra and representatives of Mule Owners Association and some other stakeholders also attended the meeting and gave their views and suggestions pertaining to movement of equines on Katra-Vaishno Devi track and what steps could be taken in the light of National Green Tribunal (NGT) judgments.
The CSC observed that wide consultations were required to reach to a viable consensus on the issue and asked for taking all stakeholders on the board. It also called upon the concerned to take requisite steps to ensure efficient solid waste management in Ban Ganga to protect ecology of the areas. The Shrine Board representatives briefed the CSC on various steps taken by them for proper waste management including the use of biogas plant as en energy source. Some of the stakeholders demanded construction of sheds for the mules, adequate veterinary doctors on the track and other facilities.
Sources said the CSC has been mandated to discuss the issue of rehabilitation of mule owners as, according to the reports, nearly 5000 equines operate on Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Ji track carrying pilgrims to and fro the shrine and suggest ways for their rehabilitation and other options.
The SMVDSB has already barred mules from operating on its new tracks including Tarakote Marg, which was recently constructed between Katra to Adh-Kunwari and alternate Adh-Kunwari-Bhawan track. The mules are allowed to carry passengers only on the traditional track from Katra to Bhawan.
Sources said the CSC, apart from formulating its opinion, will also take further view point of the Shrine Board and Mule Owners Association before the next meeting so that a consensus is evolved on the issue and the State Government firms up its opinion before the NGT and other concerned quarters.
The NGT on May 16 had slammed the State Government for “open defiance” of its order on rehabilitation plan for horses and mules which have been barred from carrying pilgrims from Katra to Mata Vaishno Devi Ji cave shrine.
A bench headed by acting NGT Chairperson Jawad Rahim warned the State Government while taking exception over the submission of the counsel for the Jammu and Kashmir government that the issue was pending consideration before the state cabinet.
Union Minister for Women and Child Development, Maneka Sanjay Gandhi had also shot off a letter to Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti seeking steps to phase out equines from Mata Vaishno Devi Ji track and replacing these high maintenance animals with battery operated carts saying this was necessary to prevent massive outbreak of glanders epidemic in the State of Jammu and Kashmir and betterment of residents of holy town of Katra, the base camp of the shrine.