SASB postpones registration of Amarnath yatra till April 5

Avtar Bhat
JAMMU, Mar 31: In view of spread of Coronavirus, Shri Amarnath Shrine Board has postponed online registration of pilgrims across the country from April 2 to 15.
The Shrine Board in this regard has given intimation on its website today stating that the registration of pilgrims has been postponed up to April 15. This year’s 42-day long yatra is scheduled to begin from June 23 which would culminate on Shravan Purnima coinciding with Raksha Bhandan festival falling on August 3.
A senior official of the Board when contacted said that the registration which was to be started from April has been postponed owing to ongoing countrywide lockdown and it will now begin on April 15. He said the same information is available on Board website also.
According to sources, there is lot of uncertainty with the prevailing situation and scare created among the people by Coronavirus which is spreading day by day across the country and this will have its impact on holy yatra also. Though the SASB has postponed the registration up to April 15, there is every apprehension that it may be postponed further in view of the lockdown prolonging for more days, sources added.
Sources said the prevailing conditions in the country will tremendously affect this year’s yatra also as by April the tendering process for clearance of snow on both shortest Baltal track as well as traditional Chandanwari route, restoration of tracks, installation of tents and other infrastructure making arrangements for water and power supply at base camps, other halting stations for pilgrims on both the tracks and holy cave was to begin from the month of April. While there is total lockdown up to April 14 which even can be extended further in the event of spurt in the cases of Coronavirus, the tendering process can also be delayed further affecting the influx of pilgrims as well, sources added.
This year, the registration of the pilgrims was to be made on 445 bank branches across the country and with the improvement of Valley situation to a great extent post abrogation of Articles 370 and 35 -A on August 5 last year and conversion of J&K State into two UTs on October 31 there was every hope that the yatra will proceed hassle free and the number of pilgrims visiting the holy cave situated at an altitude of 13500 feet above the sea level in deep Himalyas in South Kashmir’s district of Anantnag will also increase further.
Sources said, however, in view of the uncertainty created by the COVID -19 there is every apprehension that the yatra to the most sacred and ancient cave of the country will be affected to great extent this year.
It may be recalled that the last year the yatra which was of 46 days was curtailed by 33 days due to uncertain political situation in J&K. The yatra, had started on July 1 last year after the then Governor who was the Chairman of Shrine Board also performed Pratham poojan at holy cave. The yatra was stopped on August 2 instead of scheduled culmination on August 15 due to uncertain political situation in the erstwhile State and pilgrims were asked to return to their home States.
During last year, over 3.42 pilgrims drawn from different parts of the country performed darshan at holy cave. The Amarnath pilgrimage which is considered the toughest pilgrimage of the country recorded a highest number of pilgrims in the year 2011 when 6.35 lakh yatris from different parts of the country visited the holy cave surpassing the previous record of 2008 when 5.33 lakh pilgrims had visited the cave shrine.
It may be recalled that in 2018 there was 60 days of pilgrimage which was later curtailed to 40 days by SASB in 2019 in view of the hardships faced by the pilgrims due to vagaries of weather.