Jammu: The first batch of pilgrims for the annual Amarnath Yatra will leave from Jammu's Bhagwati Nagar base camp on Wednesday. The pilgrims will leave for the twin base camps of Baltal and Pahalgam in Kashmir, in a fleet of vehicles under tight security. They will reach the base camps of Baltal in Ganderbal and Nunwan-Pahalgam in Anantnag districts in Kashmir later on Wednesday. The pilgrims would start their onward journey to the 3,880 metre high cave shrine by foot, the next day, marking the commencement of the pilgrimage.
"All arrangements are in place to ensure smooth and peaceful pilgrimage, which is a symbol of brotherhood and communal harmony," said Inspector General of Police, Jammu, SD Singh Jamwal.
He added that the security forces were fully alert and they have taken adequate measures to thwart nefarious designs of anti-national elements and their mentors from 'across the border'. Security arrangements around the base camps, temples, railway stations, bus stands and other crowded places here have been strengthened, other officials were quoted as saying by PTI.
This year, the government has decided to monitor each vehicle carrying Amarnath pilgrims with radio frequency (RF) tag and to extend the validity of temporary prepaid mobile connections taken by pilgrims from seven days to 10 days. Around 40,000 security personnel from Jammu and Kashmir Police, paramilitary, National Disaster Response Force and the Army, have been being deployed for the pilgrimage.
Considering the carrying capacity of the existing tracks and other available infrastructure in the pilgrimage area, Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) has decided to allow 7, 500 pilgrims on each route daily. These are the traditional 36-km route from Pahalgam and the shortest 12-km route from Baltal. This will exclude pilgrims travelling by helicopter.
More than two lakh pilgrims have registered for the annual pilgrimage to the Amarnath cave shrine in south Kashmir Himalayas, which begins on Thursday.
"As many as 2,11,994 pilgrims have secured advance registration through the designated bank branches, group registration facility and through booking of helicopter tickets for the yatra," an official spokesperson said on Tuesday after a meeting to review the arrangements for the pilgrimage. The meeting was chaired by J&K Governor NN Vohra.
The registration process started on March 1, 2018, through 440 designated bank branches of the Punjab National Bank, J&K Bank and YES Bank in 32 states and UTs across the country, he added. The ongoing registration trend shows that about 1,200 people are being registered every day and the maximum pilgrims are registering from the states of Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Delhi, Rajasthan and Haryana, the spokesperson further said.
A total of 2.60 lakh pilgrims offered prayers at the shrine in 2017.
(With PTI inputs)