With unregistered pilgrims continue to trek treacherous track of Amarnath yatra , experts have expressed fear that death toll might increase drastically because unregistered pilgrims were taking non-traditional route with fake health certificates.
“Pilgrims go with fake certificates about their health status. They then take the non-traditional route of Baltal exposing themselves to a very steep climb without acclimatization,” said Upendra Kaul, executive director and head Cardiology, Fortis group of hospitals, and also a Padma Shri awardee.
The traditional route in south Kashmir’s Pahalgam-Chandanwari area is a three to four day trek. “On the traditional route, a pilgrim would spend three nights before reaching the shrine, helping him to acclimatize. On non-traditional route of Sonamarg-Baltal, it takes one day trek, exposing pilgrims to very steep climb without acclimatization,” said Kaul in Srinagar.
The shrine, which houses an ice lingum (stalagmite) at a height of 3,880 metres, is approached from two areas of Pahalgam and Sonamarg in south and north-east of Srinagar respectively. It’s 42 km trek from Pahalgam base camp and 12 km trek from Baltal base camp.
“More concerning is the fact that 3/4th deaths were young and at the prime of their ages, average of around 40 years,” said Kaul.
The leading cardiologist said, “These deaths tell us the status of cardiac health of our young men. Poor life style, bad eating habits, sedentary habits, high incidence of diabetes with its accompanying problems is the main reason.”
At least 86 pilgrims have died in the past 22 days. Last year, only 107 were killed in 45 days. Fifteen days more are left in the yatra, which will conclude on August 2. “My fear is that the toll can easily go past 100,” warned Kaul.
Kashmir director health Saleem-ur-Rehman has asked pilgrims to follow do and don’ts seriously.
“Yes, people have come with fake medical certificates. We appeal to people to acclimatize before embarking for upper reaches to reach the shrine. Do not ignore minor symptoms. We have 600 oxygen cylinders working round the clock on two routes. Please make use of them to avoid any fatality,” said Rehman.
Against 3.50 lakh registered pilgrims, the official figure of pilgrims crossed the 4.9 lakh mark on Tuesday. The discrepancy in the figures shows more than one lakh pilgrims were unregistered.
Kashmiri Pandit Sangarash Samiti chief Sanjay Tickoo has accused the authorities of poor coordination, resulting in deaths. “How can so many unregistered yatris reach to the shrine without being detected? The authorities in Jammu only should check unregistered pilgrims,” said Tickoo.
Accusing the government of failure to regulate the yatra, Tickoo said, “The authorities have turned the pilgrimage into tourism. Traditionally, the real yatra is of 15 days only but extending it for months together has turned it into tourism.”