Thousands Of Pilgrims Stranded As Inclement Weather Forces Suspension Of Amarnath Yatra For Second Day

Excelsior Rakesh

Jammu/Srinagar, Jul 8: The Amarnath Yatra was suspended for the second consecutive day on Saturday following incessant rains and landslides, leaving thousands of pilgrims stranded in Jammu and at various places en route to the cave shrine.
Union minister Jitendra Singh assured the pilgrims that senior officials are monitoring the situation and requested them not to panic and to follow instructions issued by authorities from time to time.
Heavy rains have lashed large parts of Jammu and Kashmir since Thursday night while several high-altitude areas, including Mahaguns Top and adjoining areas near the Amarnath cave shrine, experienced snowfall. Some places witnessed record rainfall over a 24-hour period for July.
“The Yatra remains suspended from both the Pahalgam and the Baltal routes for the second day due to the inclement weather,” an official said.
“No fresh batch of yatris were allowed (to leave) from the Bhagwati Nagar base camp this morning in view of the suspension of the Yatra in the Valley and the inclement weather,” a police official said.
The meteorological department has predicted widespread light to moderate rains, accompanied by thundershowers, under the influence of monsoon winds and western disturbances across Jammu and Kashmir till Sunday.
The 62-day annual pilgrimage to the shrine, situated at an altitude of 3,888 metres in the south Kashmir Himalayas, commenced from the twin tracks of Pahalgam in Anantnag district and Baltal in Ganderbal district on July 1. The Yatra is scheduled to conclude on August 31.
Over 80,000 pilgrims have paid obeisance at the holy cave shrine so far.

Pilgrims unfazed by delay
The pilgrims were stranded in Jammu and at various places including Chanderkote along the Jammu-Srinagar national highway, which was closed for traffic following multiple landslides and the washing away of a portion of the road near Panthiyal tunnel.
But the inclement weather has not dampened the spirits of devotees.
“I was supposed to leave for the Valley to join the yatra today (Saturday) but the closure of the highway and the weather did not allow further journey,” Deepu, a resident of Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh told PTI at Bhagwati Nagar base camp.
Deepu, who was accompanied by several friends, said they will wait for the weather to clear and will complete their Yatra. “We are here on the call of ‘Baba Barfani’ and are not going back unless we perform darshan,” he said.
Manisha, a resident of Madhya Pradesh, said she had come with a lot of hopes and prayers and will wait till the next week before thinking of returning home.
The devotees were also stopped at the Baltal and the Nunwan base camps. A landslide occurred on the Baltal route of the Yatra track following heavy rain in the area. However, there were no reports of any loss of life.
The Yatra will resume once the weather improves, the officials said.
Suraj Sharma, a resident of Ghaziabad (UP), said he is satisfied with the arrangements made by the local administration for the pilgrims at the base camp. “We have left for the Yatra and we are going to complete it even if it means waiting for a month,” he said,
On Friday, a batch of 4,600 pilgrims was stopped at Chanderkote along the national highway in Ramban district to avoid crowding at the Pahalgam base camp after the Yatra’s temporary suspension.
Shyam Sahu, a resident of Maharashtra who is among over 6000 devotees at Chanderkote, said he had been planning for the Yatra for the past couple of years.
“We have been stopped here since Friday afternoon and will wait for the clearance to proceed ahead. We are not facing any problem as the government has made all arrangements for our boarding, loading and security,” Sahu said.

Union Minister Jitendra Singh speaks to officials
Union Minister Jitendra Singh said that senior officials are monitoring the situation and adequate arrangements have been made on the ground.
“…Efforts are being made to evacuate the stranded Yatris as soon as the weather shows even the slightest improvement. We are constantly in touch with the authorities.
“I have personally spoken to Army Commander, Northern Command, Lt Gen (Upendra) Dwivedi, and CEO (Chief Executive Officer) Amarnath Shrine Board, Dr Mandip Bhandari. Both the senior officers personally monitor the situation,” the minister of state in the Prime Minister’s Office tweeted.
He said the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and SDRF are already on the job. “The yatris are requested not to panic and follow instructions issued by the authorities from time to time,” the minister added.
The Yatra was suspended on Friday following widespread rain, particularly along the twin tracks – the traditional 48-km Pahalgam route in Anantnag district and the 14-km Baltal route in Ganderbal district.

More rain likely in next few days: Met dept
The meteorological department said intermittent light to moderate rain is likely to continue at most places in Jammu and Kashmir on Sunday, with the possibility of heavy to very heavy showers at isolated places of the Jammu division.
From July 10 to 14, the weather is likely to remain generally cloudy, with intermittent thundershowers at a few places towards the evening or early morning, the Met department said.
The weather system can lead to temporary disruption of surface transportation over the Srinagar-Jammu national highway, Mughal Road, the Srinagar-Leh highway, and other major hilly roads, the officials said.
The administration in several districts has issued advisories to people, asking them to remain cautious and set up control rooms for any eventuality.
All the pilgrims are safe and sheltering at halting stations along the route, the officials said, adding that the yatra will resume after the weather improves.

Security forces remain alert
Meanwhile, the Army is conducting area domination patrols daily along the Jammu-Srinagar national highway with drones, surveillance equipment and sniffer dogs to ensure a secure passage for Amarnath pilgrims, officials said on Saturday.
The drills on the highway are an integral part of the multi-security grid responsible for facilitating a smooth and incident-free pilgrimage spanning 62 days from July 1, they said.
“The Army undertakes intense area domination patrolling along the entire route of the yatra, from Jammu to Banihal and beyond, providing security to pilgrims,” a senior security official said.
The Northern Army commander and the corps commanders oversee the security arrangements and regularly assess the ground situation, they added.
“These tireless efforts, often performed in challenging conditions, significantly contribute to the successful execution of the pilgrimage while prioritising the safety and well-being of the pilgrims,” the official said.
The Amarnath yatra attracts devotees from across the globe and contributes significantly to the local economy, benefiting small villages along the route, as well as larger towns and cities in Jammu and Kashmir, the officials said. (AGENCIES)