Radio frequency identity cards in offing for pilgrims visiting Mata Vaishno Devi shrine in Jammu and Kashmir

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Jammu, May 22: Radio Frequency Identity card (RFID) will be soon introduced for pilgrims planning yatra to Mata Vaishno Devi shrine atop Trikuta hills in Reasi district of Jammu and Kashmir to keep a check on flow of devotees and ensure all necessary steps in case of emergencies, officials said.
They said that work on ‘Durga Bahwan’, which can house around 2,000 yatris, was also being expedited to prevent any congestion at the revered temple complex as the rush of pilgrims was increasing by every day.
Officials in the know of the developments said that Jammu and Kashmir administration, through Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board, is planning to introduce RFID for all the pilgrims visiting the temple.
This would help to see the flow of yatris and also ensure remedial measures in case there is any congestion visible during the yatra route, the officials said.
The measures come in the wake of a stampede on New Year’s Day in which 12 people lost their lives and 16 others were injured.
It was the first such tragedy at the shrine, where pilgrims reach after a 13-km trek, following which Lt Governor Manoj Sinha had announced several decisions to ensure the safety of the devotees, including a provision for 100 per cent online registration.
Sinha had issued directions for physical and systematic improvements wherever required after critical examination, augmentation of infrastructure, decongestion of the entire track, appropriate use of technology for effective crowd and queue management and introduction of RFID tracking.
RFID is based on a wireless technology used for tracking through radio waves.
The tags can carry encrypted information, serial numbers and short descriptions.
In a bid to cater to the large crowd at Bhawan (sanctum sanctorum), work on the proposed ‘Durga Bhawan’ was being expedited so that devotees coming to the shrine who get stuck due to inclement weather can be accommodated, the official said.
The yatra registered a footfall of over 55.77 lakh in 2021, compared to 17 lakh the previous year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The National Green Tribunal has put a cap of 50,000 pilgrims per day keeping in view the COVID-19 situation.
From 13.95 lakh in 1986, when the shrine board took over the affairs of the shrine for better management, there has been a steady increase of pilgrim footfall with each passing year, touching the all-time high of 1.04 crore turnout in 2012 against 1.01 crore its preceding year.
However, only 17 lakh pilgrims, the lowest in over three decades, visited the shrine in 2020 when it, for the first time in its history, remained closed for five months due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and reopened for the pilgrims on August 16 (2020). (Agencies)