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Modi govt goes all out for bumper footfall in 1st Amarnath Yatra post-370 scrapping & Covid

Govt hopes for double the footfall of last Amarnath Yatra in 2019, which was curtailed ahead of scrapping of Article 370. The 2020 and 2021 editions were cancelled due to Covid.

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New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government is pulling out all the stops to ensure a footfall of six to eight lakh devotees in this year’s Amarnath Yatra in Jammu and Kashmir, which would be double the number that took part in the 2019 yatra, which was cancelled midway ahead of the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution.

Since then, the Amarnath Yatra has been cancelled in both 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) has laid out elaborate plans to ensure “better facilities and a seamless journey experience for yatris” to boost the number of attending devotees this time around. 

According to data published by the Amarnath Shrine Board, 2019 witnessed the highest number of pilgrims at 3.4 lakh, although the yatra was cancelled midway due to the scrapping of Article 370, which gave special status to the then-state of Jammu & Kashmir.

Measures planned

Meetings related to the yatra that usually took place in the national capital are taking place in Srinagar this year. A delegation led by I&B ministry Secretary Apurva Chandra met with members of the Amarnath Shrine Board and senior security officials Monday. Officials from Doordarshan and All India Radio were also in attendance.

The measures planned for the Amarnath Yatra include “media units” that will highlight advisories for devotees, use of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags to keep a track of their movements, and “amplifying of positive stories” about “various achievements of the Centre and UT administration with respect to developmental work done in J&K”.

“We have asked the administration to make short social media videos to encourage pilgrims to come forward and participate. There should be short clips before movie screenings at theatres so that people get to know what is happening on this front and what kind of facilities they will be provided with,” Chandra told ThePrint.

“Apart from this we also hope that pilgrims will spend 3-4 days extra in the Valley as tourists. Currently, the atmosphere in the Valley has improved and we would want to project that,” he added.

‘Clearing all doubts about the pilgrimage’

The Amarnath Yatra is basically a trek through the Himalayas to the cave shrine of Amarnath in south Kashmir, to pay obeisance to Hindu god Shiva. This year, it will commence on 30 June and continue till 11 August. Registrations for the yatra began Monday. 

According to the statement released by the I&B ministry, “Jammu & Kashmir Chief Secretary Arun Kumar said (at the meeting) that this year’s Amarnath Yatra will be the record highest owing to better facilities and seamless journey experience for yatris.”

Officials have also announced that different “media units” of the ministry will “carry publicity about detailed procedures involved from registration to commencement and conclusion about the yatra”.

“There is an absolute need to highlight the positive environment of J&K which will clear all doubts about the pilgrimage. This will invite more and more people from all across the country to become a part of this journey,” the statement quoted I&B ministry Joint Secretary Vikram Sahay as saying.

“This time we have to make sure that the morale is high so that we can ensure pilgrims find confidence in the arrangements made by the government. Therefore, different media units have been set up. This will help people understand how the arrangements are and how security will be our utmost priority. There has been miscommunication in the past about how the trek is too tough and life-threatening, and we want to assuage those concerns,” a source in the Jammu & Kashmir administration told ThePrint.

The Amarnath Shrine Board website has listed the amenities to be provided to the pilgrims this year. According to Section 16 of the Jammu & Kashmir Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Act, 1988, the Amarnath Shrine Board is responsible for undertaking developmental activities around the shrine, improving means of communication, constructing buildings for accommodation and sanitary work.

At the Srinagar meeting, the administration’s measures to try and focus on the coverage of the tourism activities in the region were also discussed.

According to the statement, Chandra said at the meeting: “There is a need to highlight the various achievements of the Centre and UT Administration with respect to developmental work done in J&K.”

In a slew of meetings that have been going on since March, the Amarnath Shrine Board has been deliberating on plans for the yatra. On 21 March, there was a rejig of the board members as well, as Lieutenant Governor of J&K Manoj Sinha reconstituted an eight-member board for better management. The board currently comprises government officers, spiritual leaders like Swami Avdheshanand Giri Ji Maharaj, as well as academics.

(Edited by Gitanjali Das)

Also Read: No Amarnath Yatra for 3 yrs: Sonmarg horses are idle, their owners jobless and ‘in huge debt’


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