Prudential and pragmatic decision


The annual pilgrimage to Shri Amarnath Shrine in Kashmir has been cancelled this year. The decision, after a threadbare discussion amongst the members on the Shrine Board, taken after weighing every pros and cons discreetly and seeing the ground situation, is on expected lines. Though the second ferocious wave of COVID-19 pandemic has just been subdued in Jammu and Kashmir as a result of better management by the concerned authorities as also on account of full cooperation by the public, yet no chances can be taken in allowing pilgrims to travel to the Holy Shrine. Since COVID – 19 safety and precautionary protocol is very much in vogue and is strictly enforced to check infections , any movement in groups or any gatherings is tantamount to the breach of such protocol. Lives of the people counted more than anything else hence scrapping the Yatra this year. However, the core traditional yatra will, as usual, take place but only in strict symbolic manner as also the traditional rituals at the Holy cave shrine in consonance with the past practice. However, arrangements are proposed to be made for devotees for being in a position to attend morning and evening prayers and aarti in on-line mode. In other words, without physically being present and undertaking the journey, devotees can pay their obeisance . We have learnt that Shri Amarnath Shrine Board has put in place virtual and televised mechanism for these purposes. This is also with regard to being aware of and respecting the religious sentiments of millions of devotees and in that respect, the morning and evening Aarti from the Holy Shrine will be telecast live. It needs to be borne in mind that the more strict following of COVID protocol even during the symbolic yatra – mainly carrying the Chaddi Mubarak to the Holy Cave, the more would be the positive and safe results derived much to everyone’s delight and satisfaction. It needs to be left to no imagination as to what could be the results of any complication by way of getting infected by the virus at such a difficult mountainous terrain if any safety protocol was compromised as the virus is said to be quite effective and surviving even in severest cold temperatures. Needless to add, thousands of devotees travelling from all parts of the country and even from abroad to reach the holy shrine for the Darshan continuing for over two months and concluding on the festival of Raksha Bandhan or the Shravan Poornima is a big annual event from commercial and tourism angles also. Hundreds of people en-route the pilgrimage are engaged with the pilgrimage making an earning, the base camps mainly at Pahalgam etc are humming with commercial activities comprising transport, hotels, restaurants, arts and crafts shops etc providing them the peak time of business. Not only that, most of the devotees after the culmination of the pilgrimage, go sightseeing in the valley which provides a great stimulus to the tourism related activities. With the cancellation of the yatra, all such activities are bound to suffer but everyone is conscious of the horrendous COVID -19 virus and that ‘safety first and anything else later’ provides a sort of consolation and an assurance of better days hopefully next year. However, Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) has provided the necessary link and mobile based application which can be downloaded by the devotees to “take part” in morning and evening prayers at the Holy Shrine and thus have the Darshan too. It is particularly on the insistence of and directions from Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha who happens to be the Chairman of the SASB, that the devotees should be enabled to attend to the morning and evening Aarti at the shrine.