Vaishno Devi Shrine likely to re-open on August 16
Though around a dozen Covid-19 cases have been reported from the sanctum sanctorum of the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi shrine over the last couple of days, the temple will be re-opened on Saturday after a hiatus of around five months
The shrine was closed on March 18 amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Reasi district commissioner, Indu Kanwal Chib, said, “Most probably the pilgrimage will resume from Sunday but a final decision is yet to be taken by the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board.”
A shrine board member said,“The government’s order with a detailed standard operating procedure for re-opening religious places and shrines is out. The Covid-19 cases at the bhawan (sanctum sanctorum) have admitted to hospitals and the yatra will begin from August 16.”
However, the Katra hotel association met Reasi district commissioner Indu Kanwal Chib on Thursday and urged the administration to make a couple of concessions.
‘DO AWAY WITH 500-PILGRIM CEILING’
Katra hotel association president Rakesh Wazir said, “Every individual in Katra, India and across the world welcomes the much-awaited resumption but we have requested the administration to remove the ceiling of 500 pilgrims from outside J&K and 4,500 from within J&K that is valid till September 30 because the footfall of local pilgrims during lean and peak season varies between 500 to 1500. Therefore, the rider of 500 pilgrims from outside J&K should be done away with.”
“Further, the latest Covid negative test reports from native states of pilgrims from outside J&K should be considered valid for 72 hours,” he said.
The J&K government on Tuesday had issued guidelines and instructions for opening of all religious places from August 16. The order clearly says that any deviation from the order will attract penal action under the Disaster Management Act, 2005.
“Due to the relatively large number of pilgrims visiting the shrine, additional guidelines shall be applied to this shrine and will be enforced by the shrine board’s chief executive officer and Reasi district magistrate,” the order reads.
Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) facilities at multiple locations at the start of yatra route could be set up to randomly test and identify any potential carrier of infection. The shrine board and the district administration have already launched a massive cleaning and sanitisation drive at the sanctum sanctorum, twin tracks and Katra town.
Sanitisation and hygiene of all toilet blocks, bathing ghats, guest houses, battery cars, helicopters, cable car shall be ensured. The shrine, which is one of the holiest places for Hindus, is located in Reasi district and is the second richest temple in India.