Shah directs coordinated, pro-active counter-terror operations in Kashmir

Union Home Minister Amit Shah reviewing J&K situation in New Delhi on Tuesday.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah reviewing J&K situation in New Delhi on Tuesday.

UT to give RFID card to every yatri, Rs 5 lakh insurance
*HM reviews J&K situation in three back-to-back meetings
Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, May 17: Union Home Minister Amit Shah today declared that hassle-free pilgrimage to Shri Amarnath Ji shrine is priority of Narendra Modi’s Government and called for making all arrangements including additional electricity, water and telecom facilities.
He gave the directions in three back-to-back meetings with top officials of security establishment in New Delhi to assess prevailing situation in Jammu and Kashmir in the wake of targeted killings and arrangements including security of Shri Amarnath pilgrims for annual yatra beginning June 30.
Senior officials of Jammu and Kashmir administration announced in the meeting that the UT administration will provide Radio Frequency IDentification (RFID) card to every pilgrim.
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Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha attended all three meetings which were chaired by Shah while National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval and Army chief Gen Manoj Pande were present at security review meetings besides heads of all Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) and Intelligence agencies and top brass of civil and police administration from Jammu and Kashmir.
Official sources told the Excelsior that Shah directed security forces and police to conduct coordinated counter-terrorism operations pro-actively in the Kashmir Valley to neutralize the militants so that they are not able to disturb the yatra.
“Security forces should ensure zero cross-border infiltration to wipe out terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir,” he said, adding this is must to fulfill Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of prosperous and peaceful Jammu and Kashmir.
Sources said current security scenario in Jammu and Kashmir especially the Valley in the wake of targeted killings, situation along the International Border and all kind of arrangements for Shri Amarnath Ji pilgrimage including security for the yatris came up for high level review in the meetings.
“Additional deployment of paramilitary forces for the pilgrimage was among the security measures discussed for annual yatra which will start on June 30 and last 43 days till August 11,” sources said.
There was unanimity in the meeting that not only security arrangements for the pilgrims should be fool-proof but all other facilities on twin tracks of Baltal and Pahalgam like mobile connectivity, electricity, oxygen cylinders, water and medical should be set up ahead of the yatra.
An official statement issued by the Union Home Ministry said that J&K Chief Secretary Dr Arun Kumar Mehta informed the meeting that each pilgrim will be provided with a RFID card and will be insured with Rs 5 lakh.
Shah said a “hassle-free” journey for the pilgrims is a priority of the Modi Government. He stressed for enhancement of mobile connectivity along the yatra route as he directed that earth moving equipment should be placed at vantage points to clear the route in case of landslides.
This is the first Yatra after the COVID-19 pandemic, and due to the high altitude, adequate arrangements will have to be made for yatris who have any health-related problems, he said.
The Home Minister asked for an adequate number of oxygen cylinders, medical beds at an altitude of more than 6,000 feet and deployment of ambulances and helicopters to deal with any emergency medical situation.
All categories of transport services should be increased during the Amarnath yatra for the convenience of passengers, he said.
During the meeting, it was also decided to enable WiFi hotspots to ensure connectivity throughout the 39 km of the Yatra route from Pahalgam in South Kashmir. The other route is through Baltal in Central Kashmir where a pilgrim treks for nearly 15 km.
In the meeting, it was stressed to increase mobile towers for better communication and dissemination of any information on the travel route, the Home Ministry statement said.
It was emphasised to deploy machines to open the route immediately in case of landslides.
Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla, Intelligence Bureau chief Arvind Kumar, CRPF Director General Kuldiep Singh, Chief Secretary Arun Kumar Mehta, Director General of Police Dilbag Singh and Director General of Border Roads Organisation (BRO) Lt Gen Rajeev Chaudhary also attended the meeting along with other officers from Border Security Force (BSF), Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
The yatra, which presents a big security challenge for the Government, could not take place in 2020 and 2021 due to the Coronavirus pandemic and was cut short in 2019 just before the abrogation of Article 370 by about 15 days.
About eight lakh pilgrims are expected to take part in the pilgrimage.
About 12,000 paramilitary personnel (120 companies) in addition to Jammu and Kashmir Police are expected to be deployed along the two pilgrimage routes, one from Pahalgam and the other via Baltal, officials said.
Drone cameras will help the security forces to ensure the protection of the pilgrims.
Besides the Amarnath pilgrimage, the meetings also reviewed the security arrangement especially in the wake of several targeted killings, including of Kashmiri Pandits, in Kashmir.
There has been a spurt in attacks on civilians, cops and outsiders living in the Kashmir valley since the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution in August 2019 which accorded special status to Jammu and Kashmir.
The security review comes following a spate of killings in the Union Territory. On May 12, Rahul Bhat, a Government employee, was killed by militants inside his office in Budgam district. A day after, police constable Reyaz Ahmad Thokar was shot dead by militants at his residence in the Pulwama district.
Top officials of the Ministries of Health, Telecom, Road Transport, Civil Aviation and IT took part in the meeting to discuss logistics for the annual pilgrimage to the cave shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva at an altitude of 3,888 metres in a meeting chaired by Union Home secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla in New Delhi on May 13.