Pilgrims’ concerned over insanitation

Heaps of garbage and other waste material lying scattered at Baltal base camp. —Excelsior/Sajjad Dar
Heaps of garbage and other waste material lying scattered at Baltal base camp. —Excelsior/Sajjad Dar

Rain disrupts yatra, 3142 perform darshan

Avtar Bhat

JAMMU, July 27: Notwithstanding the claims of Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) of providing all facilities to Shri Amarnath Ji pilgrims coming for darshan of holy cave from different parts of the country, the yatris visiting the cave shrine have expressed their dismay and unhappiness over the prevailing insanitation at the base camp of Baltal-Sonamarg halting camps of Sheshnag and Panchtarni as well as near holy cave.
Much to the worries of pilgrims, Baltal -Sonamarg base camp is stinking with heaps of wastage and garbage lying scattered here and there. Same was the position at Shesshnag, Panchtarni and near the holy cave where the heaps of garbage and wastage including polythene bags, plastic covers, bottles, covers of Pan Parag and ‘Kheni’ etc are lying scattered every where for days together and no body at the helm of affairs takes responsibility of removing them.
Though the Shrine Board has hired a contractor for cleanliness drive in the area but he failed to remove the garbage and other filthy material from the base camp and other halting stations putting the yatris to a great trouble, sources said. Not only the pilgrims but even the employees deployed on yatra duty and the police personnel as well as the security forces personnel have to bear the brunt of the prevailing insanitation in the yatra area, sources added.
Satya, a pilgrim from Bangalore while expressing his dismay over the prevailing insanitation in the yatra area, said it seems that the Shrine Board in J&K is ignorant about the ‘Swachh Bharat Mission’ of Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. He said if the State Government failed to keep the holy cave area clean where the thousands of yatris visit from different parts of country, what impression they (yatris) will take to their States?
Another pilgrim from Maharashtra, Sangeeta who was camping at Baltal said there is total insanitation. Sangeeta who had returned after darshan from holy cave today had come via Chandanwari -Sheshnag track and returned via Baltal. Sangeeta said she was shocked to see insanitation enroute especially at Sheshnag, Panchtarni and near holy cave. The condition is even worst at Baltal, she added.
The Shrine Board receives huge amount as donation and offerings from pilgrims and it is duty bound to keep the area neat and clean which it has failed to do, she said. “What impression the pilgrims will gather about the working of the Board,” she asked”?
“We are visiting other shrines of the country also including Rameshwaram, Trambakeshwar, Kedarnath and Badrinath shrines and despite heavy rush of pilgrims there too, we do not see such insanitation any where,. What is the fun of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ when we are unable to keep the area of shrine clean which are matters of faith for the people”, she added and sought immediate intervention of Governor, Satya Pal Malik who is also Chairman of the Shrine Board towards the insanitation.
The tent owners at Sheshnag were also wary about the officials saying that through draw of lots they were allowed to install tents. This year 800 tents were allowed to be installed and overnight 400 more tents were allotted by the officials making the mockery of entire system. “When the authorities had to allot the space underhand then what was the fun of adopting the draw of lots procedure”, asked Abdul Rashid, a tent owner at Sheshnag.
Meanwhile, the Amarnath yatra was disrupted by intermittent rains today from Baltal track. However the limited yatra was allowed from Pahalgam. Owing to slippery tracks, only 3,124 pilgrims visited the 3,880-metre-high cave shrine in South Kashmir Himalayas, while the death toll in the ongoing pilgrimage reached 33, officials said.
The yatra, however, resumed from Jammu after a day-long suspension yesterday with a fresh batch of 3,926 pilgrims, including 785 women and 240 Sadhus, leaving the Bhagwati Nagar Yatri Niwas for twin base camps of Nunwan-Pahalgam in South Kashmir’s Anantnag district and Baltal -Sonamarg in Central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district..
These pilgrims had reached safely to the twin base camps of Pahalgam and Baltal in the evening, the officials said.
“On the 27th day of the ongoing Swami Amarnathji Yatra, 3,142 Yatris paid obeisance at the holy cave today. Till date 3,17,726 Yatris had the darshan of the naturally formed Shivlingam at the shrine,” an official spokesman said.
This was the lowest number of pilgrims offering their prayers at the Himalayan cave shrine since the commencement of the yatra from the twin routes — 36-km traditional Pahalgam in Anantnag district and shorter 14-km Baltal track in Ganderbal district — on July 1, spokesman said.
He said intermittent rains during the day left the tracks slippery, forcing suspension of the yatra from Baltal route, while a limited number of pilgrims were allowed along Pahalgam route to avoid any untoward incident.
They said all the pilgrims putting up at different halting stations and base camps were safe.
Earlier in the day, the 25th batch of pilgrims, including 17 children, 785 women and 240 Sadhus, left the Bhagwati Nagar base camp in Jammu in a fleet of 165 vehicles amid tight security despite rains, the officials said.
While 2,318 pilgrims reached the Pahalgam base camp, the remaining 1,608 headed for Baltal to undertake the yatra from there, they said, adding that the pilgrims reached their destinations safely.
Three pilgrims have died in the last two days due to high altitude sickness, taking the number of pilgrims who died during the yatra to 33. The dead included 29 pilgrims, two ‘Sevadaars’ (volunteers) and two security personnel deployed enroute the yatra track.
Deaths due to cardiac arrest triggered by lack of oxygen in the area around the cave shrine have been common over the years, prompting the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board to issue regular health advisories to pilgrims.
Forty pilgrims have taken ill or sustained injuries due to shooting stones and other causes since the commencement of the pilgrimage, the officials said.
The number of pilgrims who have paid obeisance at the Amarnath cave shrine in the south Kashmir Himalayas this year has already crossed the three-lakh mark.
The 46-day yatra is scheduled to end on August 15, coinciding with the Hindu festival of Shravan Purnima and Raksha Bandhan when the holy mace of Lord Shiva will reach the cave shrine from Dashnami Akhara Srinagar.