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More pilgrims can take Amarnath Yatra

An Indo-Tibetan Border Police man helps pilgrims on their way to the cave shrine of Amarnath on July 12, 2022.

An Indo-Tibetan Border Police man helps pilgrims on their way to the cave shrine of Amarnath on July 12, 2022. | Photo Credit: PTI

For the first time since the flash floods hit the Amarnath yatra on July 8, J&K Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha, also the chairman of the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB), spoke about the incident in Srinagar. He revealed that 15 people died and 55 were injured, “with most discharged from the hospitals”. 

“The rescue operation has almost come to an end. No more bodies have been found,” L-G Sinha said.

He also revealed that the board has decided to allow additional 5,000 pilgrims per day on the twin routes against the slab of 15,000 set by the Supreme Court in 2012.

Before Thursday, the board had been silent on the number of casualties. It is yet to release the list of names of those who died in the tragedy. Only seven bodies had been identified in the first 24 hours. This year, the board had also decided not to reveal the number of pilgrims performing ‘darshan’ in a day, as was the case in the past.

Meanwhile, the L-G Sinha surprised all with the board’s decision to increase the number of pilgrims using the twin routes of Baltal and Pahalgam in central and south Kashmir this year, in violation of the SC-set upper slab of 7,500 per route per day.

The SC Division Bench, comprising Justice Dr. B.S. Chauhan and Justice Swatanter Kumar, in an order issued on December 13, 2012, restricted the number of pilgrims to 7,500 each from the twin routes. In fact, earlier, only 3,400 pilgrims were allowed per day to pay obeisance at the cave shrine. The SC order came after it took suo motu cognisance of the deaths of 105 pilgrims during the pilgrimage that year due to poor regulation. The SC also consulted the then State government as well as the board before deciding on the numbers.

However, L-G Sinha said the board decided to allow 10,000 pilgrims each on these routes as “there has been an upgrade of the facilities by the board compared to the previous years”. 

He said there would have been more casualties on July 8 had the Irrigation and Flood Control Department not constructed embankments on the route, based on the assessment of the pattern of flash floods that occurred in the region in the previous years.

“I have requested the Surveyor General of India to conduct digital contour mapping of the Amarnath Cave shrine and its adjoining areas. The survey will recommend steps to be taken for preventing human losses in case of natural calamities at the cave shrine,” the L-G said.

He also praised the locals for helping pilgrims to take safer routes and offering timely help when the cloudburst resulted in flash floods.

L-G Sinha said 1.5 lakh pilgrims have visited the shrine since June 30. It’s almost an average of 10,000 pilgrims per day.

Meanwhile, fresh rains and slippery conditions again disturbed the pilgrimage till noon on Thursday, especially on the Baltal route.

In a separate incident, 25 pilgrims were injured in an accident in Badragund area of Qazigund in south Kashmir’s Kulgam. Three seriously injured pilgrims were shifted to the Government Medical College, Anantnag.

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Printable version | Aug 19, 2022 12:56:52 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/week-after-amarnathtragedyjk-l-g-says-rescue-ops-ends-no-more-bodies-found/article65640200.ece