No metalled roads for Amarnath yatra
New Delhi: There will be no metalled or motorable road constructed on the route to the annual Amarnath Yatra, the Supreme Court has ruled on an issue that has stoked a lot of controversy recently.
The apex court, in its judgement on December 13, has made it amply clear that its order was to ensure that there was no causality of pilgrims during the annual pilgrimage that takes place July-August every year for 30 days in the Kashmir Valley.
The judgement, delivered by Justices B S Chauhan and Swatanter Kumar, punctures the campaign of hardline separatists, including pro-Pakistan leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who had been claiming that a permanent road was being constructed.
The Supreme Court said, "All other walking tracks from various other points like Baltal, Panchtarni and Chandanvadi may be covered either by pre-fabricated rough cement tiles or such other material, which in the opinion of the SHPC, would be most appropriate for the benefit of the pilgrims."
While taking into account every aspect including the environment, the court said, "Neither have we directed nor should we be understood to have implicitly directed that there should be metalled motorable road in place of the walking tracks/passages."
"There shall be provided separate one way passage for palkis and horses as one unit and the pedestrians as the other, near to and at the passages leading to the Holy Shrine. Preferably on this passage pre-fabricated walking path/matting should be provided," it said.
Geelani, who had last Saturday alleged that the Centre was using judiciary to implement its design for setting up 'Amarnath nagar', had claimed that road was being constructed on paths leading to Amarnath cave shrine from Pahalgham in South Kashmir and Baltal area of Sonamarg in Central Kashmir.
The Supreme Court said, "We must not be understood to have ordered directly or indirectly, construction of any motorable metalled road in place of walking tracks.
"However, we hasten to clarify that it is not only improvement of the road at critical portions but the entire track needs to be improved, particularly from Panchtarni to the Holy Cave."
The order also said that "all other walking tracks from various other points, like Baltal, Panchtarni and Chandanvadi may be covered either by pre-fabricated rough cement tiles or such other material which...Would be most appropriate for the benefit of the pilgrims."
Also deflating the propaganda that permanent construction was being done along the route, the Supreme Court's order was clear that attempt should be made to "construct shelters on the passage or walking paths at regular intervals".
"Temporary or pre-fabricated shelters should certainly be provided near the Holy Shrine where large number of persons collect and have to wait for long hours for darshan," it said.