New Delhi: Expressing "shock" over growing number of Amarnath pilgrims` death, which has risen to 97, the Supreme Court today asked the Jammu and Kashmir government to immediately deploy medical aid teams for `yatris`.
A bench of justices B S Chauhan and Swatanter Kumar said the state government should take assistance of the Centre and the governments of Uttar Pradesh and Punjab to deploy necessary medical teams for pilgrims.
"Thirteen more deaths happened during the three days after we passed the order. It is shocking," said the bench, while pointing out that people of different age groups have lost their lives during the pilgrimage.
"We are worried and want to ensure that no more deaths are caused," the bench observed.
It also asked the high power committee appointed by it to consider removal of the iron gate near the holy shrine as it is inconvenient for pilgrims and causes melting of the ice. It asked it to consider installing a fibre gate.
The apex court on July 20 had set up a committee to recommend measures to prevent the growing number of casualties among Amarnath pilgrims saying it has become a permanent problem and a regular affair.
The court had passed the order after taking suo motu note of media reports of pilgrims` deaths allegedly due to lack of proper facilities and medical care for them.
The committee comprises secretaries of various departments including those from the Ministry of Environment and Forest, the Home Affairs, the Health and Child Welfare, besides the Jammu and Kashmir chief secretary.
The court had asked the committee to visit the shrine and give the report to Jammu and Kashmir Governor who is also the chairman of Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB), responsible for holding the annual Amarnath pilgrimage.
The apex court had also ordered that the committee would include director generals of state police, paramilitary forces CRPF and BSF and the Border Road Organisation, besides the CEO of Sri Amarnath Shrine Board and an environmentalist, to be nominated by J&K governor.
The committee was to examine and report on various issues which include widening of passage, checking pilgrims` health, improving medical facilities for them, deployment of adequate security personnel and assessing environment impact, the court had said.
The apex court earlier had expressed concern over the increasing number of deaths of the pilgrims on way to the holy shrine and had asked the Centre and the state government to explain the causes of growing fatalities. It had also sought details of the facilities being provided to the pilgrims.
It had also pointed out the lack of facilities for pilgrims en route and around the Holy Cave of Amarnath and had said that they have to stay for days on glaciers without any amenities and proper medical care.