Rains delay commencement of Amaranth Yatra
Heavy rainfall on Thursday delayed commencement of annual Amaranth Yatra to the cave shrine in south Kashmir Himalayas from Pahalgam and Baltal base camps.“The yatra has not commenced yet from either Baltal or Pahalgam base camps due to rain,” a spokesman of the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) said. He said the yatra will commence only after weather improves and the tracks are safe for the pilgrims to move on. Amid tight security, the first batch of nearly 3,000 Amarnath pilgrims from Jammu reached the twin base camps at Baltal and Pahalgam in Kashmir last evening. Of this group of pilgrims, 1,904 have opted for traditional Pahalgam route while 1,091 choose the Baltal route to reach the Himalayan cave shrine in south Kashmir. The batch comprises of 2,334 men, 520 women, 21 children and 120 Sadhus, officials said. The pilgrims, coming from across the country, were taken to their respective base camps as security forces dotted the 400-km road length from Jammu to Baltal and Pahalgam. The government is for the first time using radio frequency (RF) tags to track Amarnath-bound vehicles, while the CRPF has introduced motorcycle squads with cameras and various life-saving equipment. Around 40,000 security personnel from the Jammu and Kashmir Police, paramilitary, National Disaster Response Force and the Army, have been deployed for this year’s pilgrimage. A total of 2.60 lakh pilgrims offered prayers at the shrine last year. Considering the carrying capacity of the existing tracks and other available infrastructure in the pilgrimage area, the SASB has decided to allow 7, 500 pilgrims on each route daily. The fleet of 109 vehicles was escorted by security forces vehicles from Jammu upto the base camp as security has been heightened for this year’s yatra in view of the militant attack on a bus carrying Amarnath pilgrims that left eight of them dead and 18 others injured. While the pilgrims performing the yatra via shorter Baltal route usually return to the base camp within a day, those taking the traditional Pahalgam route have to trek 42 kms, with an overnight stay at one of the halting stations before they can pay obeisance at the cave shrine.