Around 40-day Amarnath yatra likely this year, final call soon
Terror incidents, killings of security personnel down
JAMMU, Feb 18: Union Home Minister Amit Shah today held high-level review of security situation and developmental works in Jammu and Kashmir in a meeting in the Union capital amid indications that annual pilgrimage of Shri Amarnath Ji shrine could be held for around 40 days this year as third wave of COVID is constantly on decline.
Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha, National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval, Home Secretary AK Bhalla, Army chief Gen Manoj Mukund Naravane, Chief Secretary Dr Arun Kumar Mehta, Director General of Police Dilbag Singh and top officials of various Central Armed Police Force (CAPFs) attended the meeting among others.
Briefing reporters after the meeting, the Lieutenant Governor said the Home Minister reviewed developmental works and security situation in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
“Every month, the Home Minister has been reviewing developmental works and security situation,” Sinha said, adding that pace of ongoing works and future roadmap of the Union Territory was discussed.
Replying to a question on conduct of Shri Amarnath yatra this year, Sinha said the pilgrimage didn’t take for the last two years due to COVID-19.
“Now the COVID situation is well under control. We will take a call on the yatra,” he asserted.
Sources said the conduct of annual pilgrimage of Shri Amarnath Ji in South Kashmir Himalayas after two years of cancellation also reportedly figured in the meeting and there was a view that it could be held as third wave of the pathogen is gradually ebbing across the country as well as Jammu and Kashmir.
The yatra, whose duration generally varies between 40 to 60 days depending on religious and other factors, was cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19. It was cut short in 2019 by about a fortnight ahead of August 5 decisions of the Central Government when special status of Jammu and Kashmir was scrapped and erstwhile State was divided into two Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh,
This year, there were indications that there could be yatra of around 40 days as law and order situation is fully under control in the Valley and COVID is on decline. However, a formal decision on the yatra will be taken by Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) shortly including duration of the pilgrimage.
Tentative schedule being worked out for the yatra is between June 27 to August 11.
On security front, the meeting noted that terror incidents in Jammu and Kashmir declined from 417 in 2018 to 229 in 2021 while number of security personnel martyred in the UT has reduced from 91 in 2018 to 42 in 2021.
The Home Minister directed that Security Grid should be further strengthened to ensure zero cross-border infiltration and eliminate terrorism.
Shah appreciated efforts of the security agencies which have led to reduction in terror incidents.
Sources said the Union Home Minister also reviewed anti-infiltration measures along the International Border.
The Lieutenant Governor, the Chief of Army Staff and the Director General of Police were reported to have given detailed briefing to Amit Shah on security situation and anti-militancy operations in the Valley and the borders.
During a little over one and a half months of this year, security forces have killed a number of militants including top commanders of various outfits and arrested many others. Over 450 militants have been killed in Jammu and Kashmir since August 5, 2019 when Article 370 was abrogated.
Recently, Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha had stated that stone pelting in the Kashmir valley has become a thing of the past. Besides the killing of large number of militants, law and order situation has also been well under control in the Valley.
Various ongoing developmental works including those under the Centrally Sponsored Scheme and Prime Minister’s Development Package (PMDP) were also reviewed during the meeting.
The Union Home Ministry has major say in budget of the Union Territories. Annual budget of Jammu and Kashmir is scheduled to be presented in the Parliament in middle of March by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. This will be third consecutive budget of J&K to be presented in the Parliament in the absence of Legislature in the UT due to delay in conduct of Assembly elections.