A pilgrim from Maharastra died on his way to the 3,880 metre high holy cave shrine of Amarnath in south Kashmir Himalayas, as the annual yatra commenced from the shorter route in Ganderbal district on Saturday.
According to Rakesh Kumar Gupta, CEO, Amarnathji Shrine Board, a 31-year-old man identified as Sunil Dharmani died due to cardiac arrest on the way to holy cave on Saturday afternoon. “Details are emerging but so far we know one pilgrim died due to heart attack near Gandhimarg area about 5 to 6 kilometers from the starting point of the yatra,” Gupta said.
More than 100 pilgrims had died in 2012. Lack of acclimatisation, high-altitude sickness, bogus health certificates and systemic failure are listed among the causes of deaths during the annual yatra.
Assuring that 2014 would not be a repeat of previous years, Gupta said all precautions were being taken as per the Supreme Court guidelines. “The yatri had provided a health certificate but sometimes not everything is revealed in the certificates,” he added.
“All precautions are being taken, we are checking health certificates and rescue teams are deployed at vulnerable spots along the tracks to meet any eventuality,” he said.
Meanwhile the first batch of nearly 7,900 pilgrims, who had reached Baltal base camp on Friday, started the arduous 16-km journey to the cave shrine around 5 am. “The yatra is taking place from the shorter route. The track is good and safe,” Gupta said.
According to him, yatris who were reaching the traditional Pahalgam route were also being diverted to Baltal.
The yatra was also scheduled to commence from the traditional 45-km Pahalgam route in Anantnag district, but was deferred due to non-clearance of snow along the track. The upper reaches in the valley had experienced snowfall till May this year. About seven to eight feet of snow could still be seen at several places around the cave shrine.
A decision on opening of the traditional route is likely on June 30.
“Jammu and Kashmir Governor NN Vohra, who is also Chairman of Shrine Board (SASB) which manages the annual pilgrimage, was the first to pay obeisance at the cave shrine and participated in ‘Pratham Pooja’, marking the beginning of the 44-day pilgrimage,” the official said.
A three-tier security ring, comprising of police, CRPF,BSF and Army, has been put in place along the route to ensure peaceful yatra and foil any attempts to sabotage the annual pilgrimage.