Record number of 3.65 lakh pilgrims visit Amarnath shrine this year: Sinha

LG Manoj Sinha addressing a press conference in Srinagar on Friday. —Excelsior/Shakeel
LG Manoj Sinha addressing a press conference in Srinagar on Friday. —Excelsior/Shakeel

‘RFID tracking proved very helpful’

Fayaz Bukhari

Srinagar, Aug 12 : Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha today said that 3.65 pilgrims performed the annual Amarnath yatra this year and the figure is the highest in the past five years.
Addressing a press conference here at Raj Bhawan, the LG said that pilgrims from all over India came to the cave shrine and performed darshan of Shiv Lingam.
“The annual pilgrimage has concluded. In total, 3.65 pilgrims performed darshan at the cave shrine of Amarnath. The figure is highest in the past five years,” Sinha said.
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He said that due to the cloudburst, yatra remained suspended for three days and due to the efforts of security forces, NDRF and SDRF ensured early resumption of the pilgrimage.
The LG said that during the 44 day yatra period, weather remained erratic for 20 days and the Shrine Board besides SDRF and NDRF teams had to issue weather advisories for pilgrims.
He said that this year the capacity to accommodate yatris at Yatra Niwas facilities was increased from 70,000 to 125,000. “RFID chips played a great role to keep track of pilgrims. A female child was lost who was tracked within a few minutes through RFID,” the LG said.
Sinha said overall the yatra remained peaceful and the pilgrims at both base camps Baltal in Sonamarg and Chandanwari in Pahalgam expressed their satisfaction to the arrangements through various surveys conducted by the administration.
The LG thanked the security forces including police, army, CRPF and other Central forces in general and particularly the locals of Pahalgam and Baltal for extending whole hearted support to the pilgrims.
“I am thankful to the people of entire Kashmir for welcoming pilgrims with open arms,” he said, adding that security forces provided fool-proof security cover to the pilgrims and ensured peaceful pilgrimage.
Asked whether the tourist flow decreased due to Amarnath pilgrimage, the LG said that Yatra didn’t affect tourism in Kashmir. “If we compare figures of past three years during the pilgrimage, this year, tourist figures were much higher,” he said, adding that tourism shouldn’t be correlated with the pilgrimage.
“In future, there will be much better yatra given the nature of feedback we have received from people across India,” he said.
The LG said that for the first time, RFID tracking of yatris was introduced which proved very helpful in tracking of the yatris, especially during the time of disaster on 8th July, many yatris could be traced using RFID technology.
“240 % increase in the number of Toilets and unprecedented Sanitation arrangements ensured litter free and Open Defecation free yatra. Moreover, 190% increase in number of Beds in Hospitals, additional 100 bedded medical facility developed at each of the Base Camps and 50 beds installed additionally on each axis, 85 % increase in number of Oxygen Booths, besides two DRDO hospitals one each at Baltal and Chandanwari had aptly catered to the health needs of the yatris as well as locals and other stakeholders and saved many precious lives,” he added.
Sinha said that this year, Helicopter service was availed by the yatris from 4 sectors instead of 2 sectors. Two new heli sectors from Srinagar to Neelgrath and Srinagar to Pahalgam opened for Yatris.  Free of cost Battery car service to yatris between Baltal and Domel; 200 % increase in number RO water purifier in each camp and on the tracks; underground cabling on Baltal axis provided 3-phase 24×7 of Power supply, back up Gen sets helped in providing enhanced facilities to the yatris.
He said that the PTZ cameras installed on yatra tracks for surveillance resolved many issues and helped in minute-to-minute monitoring of yatra. “Prepaid system introduced for hiring of Pony, Pithhos and Palkis also prevented overcharging of yatris. Three times the number of Camp Officers deployed to effectively manage the Yatra. Daily Coordination meetings by CEO SASB with Divisional Commissioners, DCs, Camp Officers and other stakeholders yielded better results,” he added.