I seek your kind attention to the tragic incident that took place at Bhawan of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Holy Shrine in Katra resulting in the death of 12 innocent pilgrims and injuries to many on the fateful day of 1st January 2022.
The unfortunate inciden that took place shook the entire town. However, the prompt decisions taken in the Shrine Board meeting chaired by the Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha has had a soothing effect on the millions of the hurt pilgrims across the country.
The people of Katra and devotees across the globe are grateful and satisfied with the ‘relief measures’ provided by the administration. Besides, they feel indebted to the Government of the UT in appointment of the ‘high level committee’ with their esteemed wisdom to carry all its functions with the terms of reference.
The entire town of Katra is really appreciative of the immediate actions taken whereby examining in detail the causes/reasons behind the incident, pointed out the lapses and fixing the responsibility thereof, tickets getting booked via internet (online booking) and appropriate measures taken to control the pilgrim traffic in town.
However, besides these measures taken, I would like to submit the following few suggestions in the capacity as the resident of Katra and former Member of Legislative Assembly (Reasi constituency)
* The master plan of the holy town of Katra needs a holistic review to ensure that it meets the requirements of ever increasing pilgrims for at least the next 20 years.
* Katra should to be declared as a ‘heritage town’ on the analogy of Amritsar which will be instrumental in increasing the pilgrimage footfall.
* Concrete steps should be taken for developing, strengthening the holy circuits in and around the town of Katra with a view to decongest Katra at any given point of time and make the experience of the pilgrims remarkable. We should take inspiration from Kashi and make Katra a town that attracts crowd globally. The masterplan of Katra should be revisisted and revised on the extensive contours of religious cities that attract pilgrimage on wide contours of yoga centers, religious knowledge hubs, promotion of our cultural heritage. We should look at connecting nearby destinations around Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine such as Deva Mai, Devi Pindi, Nau Devi, Dhansar Baba, Bhumika Mandir, Dera Baba Banda, Naudevi, Baba Aghar Jitto, Cherai Muttal which are situated in the surroundings of the main Shrine destination. We should look at making Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine a religious hub that attracts pilgrims worldwide.
* Housing system on the lines of Ayodhya and Rishikesh should be developed for the pilgrims who come here and are looking for a second home where they can stay for a long period with the purpose of serving the deity.
Baldev Raj Sharma,
Ex-MLA Reasi constituency,
Katra Vaishno Devi