Sham Lal Langer, Kulbhushan Gupta
We are regular visitors of Mata Vaishnodevi and have been walking up to Bhawan and back every two / three years. We were highly impressed by the facilities provided by the Shrine board to Yatries and the upkeep of the entire complex and the track leading to Bhawan from Katra. We admired the way the Shrine board was managing such a huge crowd.
Tracks were absolutely clean, no garbage could be seen anywhere and even garbage bins used to be spick and span. All the toilets were functioning well and were kept clean all the time.You could get all kinds of snacks , food, tea and other beverages all through the track. Even at Bhawan things were extremely well managed . Bathing place was clean, toilets etc were clean and the crowd was very well managed. Almost 30 to 40 benches were provided at Bathing ghat.There were Safai karamcharis round the clock available. Police personnel were available for managing the crowd and officers were there for supervision , and help and guide the yatiries.
This time the two of us left home for Katra on 6-11-21 at around 1PM. We were expecting we could get a shared taxi or bus easily. No taxi was available and we decided to go by bus.
Journey by bus
At the newly renovated bus stand, no bus counter was open and nobody could tell when the bus would come. “No fixed timing” we were told. There were more than 100 passengers running after each bus coming and getting disappointed after finding out that bus was going to Kathua and not to Katra. After half an hour a bus for Katra came and we all ran after that. At plus 70 and 75 we could not over do others and were pushed out of the bus. Same thing happened with the second bus and finally after a wait of 2 hours we got the bus. Then the traffic jam. We could reach Katra only at 5PM.
Wonder for the newly constructed bus stand for the smart city why deptt cannot appoint an experienced Manager who has seen the functioning of bus stands in Punjab, Haryana where traffic is 10 times more than that of Jammu.The condition at Jammu bus stand is pathetic
Battery car ride to Bhawan
We had decided to walk up to Aradhkuari and avail battery car to Bhawan. Reached Aradhkuari at 8PM.We had made an online booking. Outside the online counter there was a person with a register who was being hackeled for the car tickets. Here again after pushing our way through we asked him to give us tickets. After half an hour he told us your name was not there and thus you could not get the car ticket. We told him, “ we are plus seventy and the car is supposed to be meant for senior citizens and here we are begging you for a ticket for the last half an hour and you don’t even listen to us. What sort of online system is this.” He told me, “oh sorry sir, you come at 9.45 PM I will give you the ticket for the 10 o’clock bus.” It sounded like a great favour to us. It was 9pm. We decided to have our dinner and try our luck
Wonder why online booking cannot be managed on a computer. Why should the yatries keep shouting over each other’s shoulders and run after the man holding the register and keep begging him. Then there were yatries who could be heard telling the man “See there is message from judge, there is message from secretary etc.” We did see such people getting tickets . What is the point of having an online booking system when ultimate discretion is of the person holding the register and a message from high up. Pity
Food Beverage on the way
At Aradhkuwari no stall is available. We walked up to Sanjishat and saw a big Q for getting a token for tea. We moved further up and in one restaurant could get tea and biscuits and nothing else except Rajma and Karhi Chawal were available although the menu listed twenty other items.
By the time, we had already covered 1.5KM from the battery car point , so we decided to walk up to Bhawan. We were afraid we might not get the ticket if the great man with the register was changed . After all, we had no message from a high up.
While walking up to the Bhavan from Himkoti we could get nothing to eat. No stalls offered us tea or coffee. Only cold drinks were being offered on stalls meant for nescafe even.
Wonder why for almost 6 kms distance no proper arrangement is there for people to eat and drink. Why restaurants are not told to have more counters for token etc for such a heavy crowd.
Status of toilets
On the way, used the washroom thrice. No water, urinals half broken , pipe connection missing and no soap. Not even a single safai karamchari. Entire path was littered with garbage and garbage bins were overflowing. Horse shit lying all around. With no Safai karamchari around you cannot expect a better situation. Surprisingly not even benches kept outside the washroom
Wonder why it is not thought important to keep some benches near the washrooms. It is so uncomfortable for the yatries to stand and wait. for the for the coyatry who has gone to use the toilet. Wonder why the situation has turned so bad! Why Safai karamcharis cannot be deputed round the clock and benches provided.
Situation at Bhawan was no better
It was a terrible rush. People were lying everywhere on the path. Bathing place was all wet and no bench provided. Bathing area was all slippery. One person fell down and injured his head, he had to be carried to the dispensary. Without Safai karamcharis and any supervision, the situation cannot be expected to be better. Does management expect people to sit on the floor and change.
Wonder why the person responsible for relocating the bathing ghat thought that benches provided at the previous ghat were a waste of money. How it is expected that yatries will change by sitting on a wet floor.
One of us being from the army, we could get an army pass. At gate no 5 we were told the entrance is from another point. We went there and found nobody manning the gate and a big crowd was pushing itself into the main line. Everybody claiming to be an army person but nobody there to check. Somehow we also pushed ourselves in. Then started the ordeal of walking over stairs for almost two hours and then reaching the gufa. We remember from gate 5 it was straight into the hall and then to Gufa and then to the tunnel for Darshan. It was not taking more than 15 min even during peak rush. We do not understand what benefit has been achieved by spiralling around the gufa before entering the tunnel, How is it helping in reducing the time?
We wish somebody revisits this change and restores the original system if found still better.
After 9/10 hours of walking etc we entered the tunnel and reached near Mata Vaishno Devi Murtis. The person sitting there did not even allow us to look at the murtis. Possibly he presumed this is the only way he can control the rush. To yatries it is the biggest disappointment.
At the Bhawan we did not see even a single police personnel and of course not even a single police officer . We did see a couple of policemen opposite gufa but nowhere else.
It was a great disappointment. We thought things would have improved further this time. But the entire system has become a classic case of mismanagement and corruption. Shrine Board members must be totally unaware since they must be visiting Bhawan by helicopter and getting VVIP treatment from helipad to Bhavan and back. How will they get a chance to suffer like we the yatries are suffering because of their own mismanagement. We wish once in six months they will walk up like us and appreciate the pain we felt not because of walking but because of the inefficiency of the officers responsible for not doing their duty despite the fact that there is no paucity of resources. If they are walking and not realising this situation , then God save the yatries. We are in unsafe hands. It must be made mandatory for board members to walk once every year.
It is high time Shrine board wakes up before things go out of control and millions of Yatries have to pass through the hell before reaching the holy shrine
Hoping the things will improve soon
(The author is Retired Vice President L&T Retired Colonel)
Sham Lal Langer, Kulbhushan Gupta