Amarnath Yatra: Only 2,000 pilgrims likely to be allowed per day starting July 21
Only 2,000 pilgrims are likely to be allowed per day for Amarnath Yatra during the curtailed season between July 21 and August 3 this year via the shorter Baltal route due to threats posed by coronavirus pandemic, said officials of Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB).
They, however, added that the government was yet to give its nod to this proposal for pilgrimage to the 3,880-metre high holy cave shrine in south Kashmir.
“Works section of Shri Amarnath Shrine Board awaits a nod from the government to leave for Baltal to undertake track maintenance that leads to the cave shrine from where this year’s Yatra shall be allowed”, they added.
It has also been decided that barring the sadhus, pilgrims above 55 years of age will not be allowed to undertake the yatra. The yatra, as stated above, will follow the shorter Baltal route and the longer route from Pahalgam will not be used this year for the pilgrimage.
“It will be regulated in view of the pandemic and all those undertaking the Yatra must possess Covid-19 negative certificates. The pilgrims will be cross-checked for Covid- 19 infection on entry into J&K before they are allowed to undertake the yatra,” said an official who did not wish to be named.
“In a first of its kind initiative, the SASB is also trying to telecast the aarti live from the cave shrine, both in the morning and the evening, for the devotees,” he said.
Another official said that there was also a possibility to allow the yatra only through helicopter trips.
The J&K lieutenant governor’s principal secretary and CEO of SASB, Bipul Pathak said that the board is yet to take a decision on these issues.
“When it is decided, the media will come to know,” Pathak said.
The Amarnath yatra was originally scheduled to begin on June 23 through the twin tracks of Pahalgam in Anantnag district and Baltal in Ganderbal district and end on August 3 on the day of Shravan Purnima (Raksha Bandhan).
Last year too, the yatra was cut short following intelligence inputs of terror threats ahead of centre’s move to scrap Article 370 that assigned special status to Jammu and Kashmir. In 2018, the pilgrimage was held for 60 days.
Every year thousands of pilgrims trek to the shrine either through the traditional and longer 45-km long Pahalgam route or the shorter 14 km route through Baltal.