SRINAGAR — The annual Amarnath Yatra is likely to begin from June 28 in Kashmir with a limited number of pilgrims to be allowed and proper COVID-19 protocol to be followed. The permission has been granted for Langar at Baltal from June 28 to August 22.
The pilgrimage to the 3,880-metre-high holy cave shrine of Amarnath in Kashmir valley, housing the naturally formed ice-Shivling, is expected to start from the twin routes of Pahalgam and Baltal on June 28 and culminate on August 22.
An official of SASB said there will be a limit on numbers of devotees this year. “Around 50,000 pilgrims will be allowed this year in view of the pandemic. The Yatris have to follow proper COVID protocol. Only those will be allowed who have been vaccinated and have to go through COVID testing,” the official said.
The official said virtual Darshan of one of the holiest Hindu pilgrimages devoted to Lord Shiva will continue to be telecast live during the morning and evening prayers.
Shri Amarnath Ji Shrine Board (SASB) has also directed Langar organizations to follow all COVID-19 protocols set by the Jammu and Kashmir Government. They have been asked to ensure better hygienic conditions in the Kitchen/cooking area, the LO shall cover this area with a Vinyl P.V.C sheet (2mm thick) and also follow all the necessary guidelines related to COVID-19 hygiene precautions while preparing and distributing food.
Permission letter added that in view of the recent scenario of COVID-19, all the Langar organizations are directed to follow all the SOP’s related to reducing the risk of exposure to COVID-19 viz use of face masks by all Sevadars, maintaining proper isolation distances, proper crowd management, and all COVID-19 hygiene precautions while preparing and distributing food shall be strictly followed. All the Langar organizations are directed not to follow the buffet system and preferably supply food to the Yatris by the medium of packed food.
These days, the administration is making all the arrangements for a safe and hassle-free Amarnath Yatra. Authorities have pressed men into service to clear the track from snow to the Holy Cave.
The authorities are making temporary public utilities all along the route to the holy shrine and special arrangements are also being made including health facilities in consideration of weather extremities.
There are two routes to the shrine: One, via Pahalgam in south Kashmir, is 45 km long and another, through Baltal, in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district is 14 km long.
Deputy Commissioner Ganderbal, Krittika Jyotsna, on Monday visited Baltal-Sonamarg to have a first-hand appraisal of arrangements being put in place from Baltal to the holy Cave.
Jyotsna inspected various arrangements including provisions of drinking water, power supply, medical facilities, snow clearance on track, availability of firewood, etc. being put in place from Baltal base camp to holy Cave.
While inspecting the facilities at Baltal base camp, the Deputy Commissioner directed the concerned to install good quality toilets in requisite numbers, efficient drainage system with well-laid paths and proper sanitation besides, provision for adequate parking facilities with proper lighting.
Last year, the Yatra was cancelled in view of the conditions created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Amarnath Cave is considered to be one of the holiest shrines in Hinduism and thousands of devotees undertake the arduous annual pilgrimage.