Taking a cue from the Uttarakhand tragedy, which left hundreds dead and thousands homeless, the Himachal Pradesh government has taken up new measures to meet any emergency during two famous pilgrimages.
The Shrikhand Mahadev Yatra in Kullu district will start on July 15, while Manimahesh in tribal Bharmour region of Chamba district will commence on August 28 on the occasion of Janmashtmi.
Around 50,000 devotees from across the country take the pilgrimage to Shrikhand every year, while the holy Manimahesh Lake is visited by approximately 5 lakh pilgrims during the fortnight-long yatra.
Special secretary, State Disaster Management Cell, Dr Amandeep Garg said the deputy commissioners of the districts concerned have been asked to strictly implement the guidelines issued by the state government to be followed during the religious pilgrimage. The guidelines were issued after the 2008 Naina Devi shrine stampede in Bilaspur district that had left over 150 dead.
“The district administrations in Kullu and Chamba have been directed to discuss all aspects of the yatra, including deployment of police, home guards, food supply and response in emergency,” said Dr Garg.
Kullu deputy commissioner Rakesh Kanwar said in wake of the Uttarakhand tragedy, the district administration had taken up new preventive measure to ensure safe journey of devotees during the yatra.
“The district administration will work in close coordination with the organising committee - Shrikhand Vikas Samiti. We will keep a close watch on weather and in inclement climatic conditions, the yatra will be suspended till further improvement,” said Kanwar.
Besides, night travelling will not be allowed on the track to Shrikhand Mahadev.
“Pilgrims will be sent batch-wise per day with a specific number of devotees in one group keeping in view the accommodation available at the destination,” Kanwar said, adding that police would be deployed along the route and medical services would be available for the pilgrims.“Four police camps would be set up on various locations on the 35-km track. Relief and rescue teams will be present on each location and oxygen cylinders, stretchers, emergency lights and other necessary equipment will also be available in the camps,” he added.
Earlier, no medical facilities were provided during the yatra. However, this time the administration will be deploying MBBS and ayurvedic doctors and other paramedical staff at different locations along the track.
“The administration will keep other disaster logistics on standby and there will be a quick response in any emergent situation,” said Kanwar. He added that the yatra route had been divided into two sectors and HAS officers would be deployed in the two sectors to look after the arrangements. Shrikhand Mahdev is situated at 17,000 ft above sea level.
The yatra starts at 6,000 ft and is considered the toughest pilgrimage in the country. The two-way trip generally takes four days.On the other hand, the Chamba district administration is mulling a registration process for the Manimahesh yatra this year. Earlier, no provision for pilgrims was done during the month-long pilgrimage.
“We are contemplating a registration process this year and have also convened two meetings of the district disaster management authority. We will also be taking help of the army during theyatra,” said Chamba deputy commissioner Sandeep Kadam.
He said the administration was currently focusing on Minjar fair starting July-end and further strategy for Manimahesh Yatra would be chalked out later.Situated in the Pir Panjal Range of the Himalayas at an altitude of 4,080ft, the yatra for Manimahesh lake starts from Hadsar about 6,000 ft above the sea level. The track is 14-km long.