15-Day Amarnath Yatra to Start Mid-July, Number of Pilgrims to be Capped at 5,000

Peer Mudasir Ahmed

Anantnag: The annual Amarnath Yatra pilgrimage will commence from end of July and its duration has been shortened to 15 days due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Jammu and Kashmir government has given the nod to this decision but a formal order is awaited.

Each year, lakhs of devotees from across the country visit the holy cave shrine of Amarnath in the Himalayas of south Kashmir. This year, however, the route of the yatra has been changed and the number of pilgrims has also been restricted to 4,000 or 5,000 in view of the Covid-19 situation. For the first time, the yatris will be selected through a draw of lots.

Traditionally, the Amarnath Yatra can be undertaken along two routes – one through Baltal and the other through Pahalgam via Chamdanwari. But sources have revealed to News 18 that this year, the yatra will be conducted only through the Baltal Axis and not from the traditional Pahalgam route.

DC Anantnag Kuldeep Kumar Sidha, who is also District Yatra Officer recently held a series of meetings with all stakeholders for the smooth conduct of Amarnath Yatra.

"Although this year the yatra may commence later than last year, but we are all set to start the yatra within the stipulated time. All security arrangements from Jawahar Tunnel on Jammu Srinagar National Highway have been put in place with proper synergy between Jammu Kashmir Police and other security agencies," KK Sidha said.

He added that the directions have already been issued to concerned authorities in this regard to ensure the completion of all necessary arrangements before the commencement of the pilgrimage.

Recently, Advisor to Lieutenant Governor, Baseer Ahmed Khan held a high-level meeting of all concerned authorities in Anantnag and directed them to complete the arrangements for the conduct of Amarnath Yatra.

Chief Executive Officer of Pahalgam Development Authority, Mushtaq Ahmed Simnani said that they have taken up the track restoration work and in the first phase only labourers, pony wallas and other services providers will be allowed to proceed through Pahalgam Chandanwari route in south Kashmir.

"There are almost 10 wooden bridges along the holy cave route via Chandanwari which needs to be repaired and there are few snow avalanches at different milestones, including SheeshNag and MG Top which will be cleared within minimum time," Mushtaq Simnani told News18.

Simnan added that there are almost half a dozen snow avalanches in the 26 km hilly terrain of Himalayas from Chandanwari to Panchtarni, including SheeshNag and MG Top milestone, but authorities are hopeful that the restoration of the routes will be done on time.

The Amarnath Yatra witnesses a huge rush of devotees from all over the country who pay obeisance to naturally formed ice-lingam in the cave shrine located at an altitude of 13,000 feet above sea level. Last year, the yatra was suspended in July-end before the abrogation of Article 370 citing security concerns.