Ahead of Navratri, quick response teams deployed for security of Vaishno Devi pilgrims

Armed security personnel, policemen and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) men will guard the pilgrimage at all hours
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Updated on Oct 17, 2020 12:50 AM IST
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Hindustan Times/Jammu | By, Jammu

Amid intelligence inputs regarding a possible terror strike during the navratri festival, security has been tightened in Katra town, the Mata Vaishno Devi sanctum sanctorum and the twin tracks leading to the cave shrine.

The nine-day navratri festival will begin at the holy cave shrine nestled in the Trikuta Hills in Katra town of Reasi district on Saturday.

A senior police officer said, “The famous shrine has always remained high on the radar of terror outfits and the threat perception increases during the navratri festival. However, we will ensure foolproof security.”

Reasi district police chief SSP Rashmi Wazir said, “We have deployed five quick-reaction (QR) teams in Katra and three in the bhawan (sanctum sanctorum). Eight police check posts have been setup along the tracks leading to the cave shrine and round-the-clock patrolling will be done during the festival.”

She added that armed security personnel, policemen and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) men will guard the pilgrimage at all hours.

“All pilgrims and service providers will be subjected to intense security checks before being allowed to proceed. Women cops have also been deployed. We are confident that we will be able to ensure an incident-free Navratri festival,” she said.

Wireless CCTVs and drones have been pressed into service. “The CRPF has also deployed its commandos at Ban Ganga and at the cave shrine. Hotlines have been setup to relay information in real time,” said a CRPF spokesperson.

Rapid test mandatory

Reasi district commissioner Indu Kanwal Chib said, “Every pilgrim arriving in Katra will have to undergo a rapid antigen test (RAT) before being allowed to proceed. Those who test positive will be quarantined in Katra for 10 days. A few hotels have also been identified for paid quarantine. However, in case, pilgrims who have tested positive do not wish to be quarantined, they can return using special cabs.”

“Ten testing kiosks have been set up at the Katra railway station and five more will be added depending on the bookings. Health staff has also been augmented,” she added.

Visitors capped at 7,000

Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board (SMVDSB) CEO Ramesh Kumar said, “We have made all the requisite arrangements to welcome the pilgrims. In view of the pandemic, we have announced a cap of 7,000 pilgrims per day. We will reassess the situation once the pilgrims start pouring in because trains are not running due to the farmers’ stir in Punjab. Pilgrims will only be able to come via road or air.”

Testing facilities have been setup at Ban Ganga and at the helipads.

Cave shrine decked up

“The shrine has been decorated with a variety of flowers brought in from different parts of India. This time flowers could not be brought from other countries because of the pandemic,”said Kuma, adding that renowned devotional singers will be invited during the nine-day long festival.

J&K lieutenant governor Manoj Sinha, who is also chairperson of the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board, had launched a mobile app for devotees at the Civil Secretariat in Srinagar on Thursday.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    A principal correspondent, Ravi Krishnan Khajuria is the bureau chief at Jammu. He covers politics, defence, crime, health and civic issues for Jammu city.

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