For the first time, 100 post offices across the country will register pilgrims for the annual Amarnath Yatra in Jammu and Kashmir, officials said Monday as authorities battled massive damage to the Baltal base camp due to snowfall just a month ahead of the 2012 tour.
The chief executive officer (CEO) of the Yatra, Navin K Choudhary Monday concluded a four-day visit to the Baltal base camp and inspected the snow situation and facilities for this year's pilgrimage scheduled to start next month.
"The road to the north Kashmir Baltal base camp was opened just two days back. There is 20 to 25 feet of accumulated snow on the ground. Due to this year's heavy snowfall, the police camp at Baltal has been completely wiped out and there has been massive damage to other pre-fabricated structures at the base camp," said the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) that manages the pilgrimage.
The Himalayan cave of Amarnath contains an ice stalagmite structure believed to symbolise the mystic powers of Lord Shiva and draws thousands of pilgrims.
The registration of pilgrims this year will begin May 7 and the Yatra will start on June 25. The Yatra will conclude on August 2, coinciding with the Raksha Bandhan festival.
"For the first time, 100 post offices across the country will also register for the Yatra along with 174 branches of the Jammu and Kashmir Bank," the SASB said.
During a visit to Baltal, Choudhary also inspected the helipad where the existing structures have been nearly destroyed due to massive avalanches.
"The CEO underscored the need for hard work and extra efforts for re-establishing these infrastructures in time for the Yatra," the statement said.
While the road from south Kashmir Pahalgam base camp to Chandanwari has been opened for vehicular traffic, the advance party could not move beyond Chandanwari to Sheshnag to inspect the snow accumulation there, the statement said.
While the north Kashmir trek from Baltal base camp to the Amarnath cave shrine is 14-km long and pilgrims using this route return the same day after the 'darshan', the south Kashmir trek from Pahalgam base camp is 42-km long and pilgrims take four days to reach the cave.
The SASB authorities have said no pilgrim will be allowed to undertake the Yatra without registration and the intending pilgrims have been advised to ensure their registration.