Lakhs of devotees who visit Jammu and Kashmir between July and August to undertake a trek to the Amarnath cave shrine have a pleasant surprise this year.

Thanks to monumental efforts by State-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd., the devotees can now remain connected during the long trek between the base camp and the cave.

Braving tough snowy terrain, BSNL engineers and workers have installed nine mobile towers between the base camp at Chandanwari as well as on the alternative route from Baltal to ensure that lakhs of devotees who visit the shrine between July 1 and August 24 remained in touch with their loved ones.

Union Minister of State for Communications and Information Technology Sachin Pilot, who has been the main force behind the completion of the arduous task, will open the service during his visit to the shrine after the much-awaited yatra opens on July 1.

“After the base camp, there was no connectivity while trekking towards the shrine. Pilgrims, including women, virtually remained cut off from their family members for days till they return to the base camp. But now this will change and the new facility would benefit the old and the infirm and other people wanting to stay in touch with their families. Connectivity will also benefit local inhabitants, administration and security forces, enabling them to stay in touch with each other and facilitate people visiting the area,” Mr. Pilot told The Hindu.

A challenge

While all private operators have so far shunned the idea of installing these towers on the yatra route, the BSNL took it as a challenge and as part of its social obligation and commitment to provide seamless connectivity to mobile users undertaking the Amarnath yatra, Mr. Pilot said.

The BSNL spent around Rs.8 crore on the venture, which could be used by civil and defence administration once the yatra is over.

Situated at 14,500 feet, the Amarnath shrine is visited by more than 4-lakh pilgrims every year, trekking either 30 km from Chandanwari camp or 15 km from Baltal.

To ensure uninterrupted connectivity, mobile towers have been installed at Baltal-I, Baltal-II, Domail, Barari, Sangam/holy cave, Panchtarni, Mahagunastop, Sheshnag and Chandanwari.

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