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Shrine board watches as pilgrims risk lives

india Updated: Jul 27, 2012 01:45 IST
Peerzada Ashiq

Ram Singh, 80, of Madhya Pradesh started on the 46-km trek to Amarnath hill shrine from base camp Nunwan in south Kashmir’s Pahalgam on Wednesday with son Arvind. After covering 20 km, he died.

“He wasn’t able to breathe,” said Arvind. Singh became the 100th pilgrim to die on the trek since the yatra began on June 25. The yatra ends on August 2.

Neither Singh nor his son had medical certificates, mandatory to get the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board’s permission to make the arduous trek.

Arvind was too heartbroken to say if a warning would have stopped his father from making the climb.

Most of the pilgrims who died did not have medical certificates and had not registered with the board (another mandatory requirement) for the trek either.

Pilgrims are risking their lives and the shrine board is unable to deter them.

“A woman from Lucknow weighing 170 kg and her daughter, who was suffering from TB, went on the trek — carried by palanquin bearers — despite medical advice,” said Dr Ashiq Hussain. He is posted at the Chandanwari medical camp, 16 km uphill from the base camp.

Shrine board officials claim they are trying their best, but admit they are powerless in the face of the determined devout.

No shrine board officials are to be seen regulating pilgrims, particularly those unregistered.http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/Popup/2012/7/27-07-12-pg-10a.jpg

“There are practical problems. How can we ask pilgrims from places such as Gujarat not to proceed for the yatra even if they are not registered online with the board,” said Tilak Raj Thapa, assistant commissioner development, the camp director of Chandanwari.

Around 100 pilgrims were issued on-the-spot yatra permits on Thursday, and many did not have medical certificates. “We try to ensure that those above 60 years and without health certificates are not allowed,” said Thapa. “There are chances of unregistered pilgrims taking unconventional routes. We cannot stop that.”

Faith is beyond official control, but the shrine board has failed to put up even a single signboard on the Pahalgam-Chandanwari-Sheshnag route — which saw 45 deaths — to make pilgrims aware of precautionary measures.