The Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) on Thursday said doctors investigating into the deaths of 17 pilgrims between June 26 and July 16 had pointed out that seven victims were old with ailments and 10 others could not bear the harsh climate and high altitude conditions.
The board, which met here to discuss fatalities during the pilgrimage this year, also said that fake medical certificates were being issued outside the state. During the meeting, chaired by SASB chairman and governor NN Vohra, a detailed account of medical problems of the pilgrims, which emerged during the first 24 days of the pilgrimage, was taken up.
The SASB said it was alarmed by the deaths this year as the toll had already crossed 86 in 24 days. Last year, 107 had died in 45 days.SASB chief executive officer (CEO) Navin Chaudhary said the report was received from Dr Manmeet Singh, in-charge medical officer at the holy cave. The doctors examined 17 victims of whom seven were between 60 and 72-year-old.
The doctors' team said that all the 17 had died near the shrine. "We examined to ascertain the cause of deaths," the report said. "The remaining 10 in the 24-59 years age group could not bear the harsh climate and the high altitude conditions," the report said.
Most deceased had come ill-prepared for the pilgrimage in terms of proper clothing. "Most of them believed in a dip in ice-cold water before darshan, in fasting for three days before worshipping the cave, which causes Hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) - a condition that can be fatal for diabetics who take their medicines at the time of fasting," the report said.
The doctors have also said that registered medical practitioners (RMP) from outside the state had issued medical certificates to medically unfit pilgrims. "Majority of deaths could be due to either high altitude pulmonary Oedema, which occurs due to ascent to more than 10,000 feet over a very short period of time, or hypothermia, both of which are fatal, once they occur," said the report.
"Of the deaths that have occurred amongst the younger yatris in the holy cave area, the doctors have pointed to cases of Yatris who, despite suffering from serious ailments and being unfit for high altitude travel, had been able to secure medical certificates from registered medical practitioners outside the state," an SASB spokesperson said.