Ill-planned yatra ends
KS CorrespondentIt is a tribute to the devotion and gritty determination of Shiv-Bhaktas that despite the massacre of 32 persons, including 22 pilgrims, at Pahalgam on August 1, the Amarnath yatra this year attracted a record 1.8 lakh yatris. That marks a big jump over last years figure of 1.49 lakh. This increase was despite the fact that the ice lingam at the cave had melted on July 21, causing disappointment among the devotees. At the same time, it is true that the massacre did cast a shadow over the yatra. The influx of yatris had dried up after that, otherwise the figure might have crossed the two-lakh mark. The militants death dance gave a lie to the administrations claim of preparedness and foolproof security. There is need for an impartial enquiry to pinpoint exactly what went wrong and where so that there is no repetition of such a ghastly incident. Even more necessary is to go to the bottom of allegations that after the militants sprayed bullets on innocent pilgrims, the police arrived only to loot the victims and others. Several eyewitnesses have alleged that some constables of the Jammu and Kashmiri police started removing ornaments, money and other valuables from the bodies of those killed. Chances are that these might not have been genuine constables and might be criminals wearing uniforms but the whole episode has to be investigated to restore the confidence of the people. At the same time, there is need to assess whether the State is really prepared to manage such a huge rush. There were failures galore in providing even basic amenities to the devotees undertaking the annual yatra. The situation could have been even worse if the last batches had not been scared away by the killings.
The government also failed to prevent a shocking exploitation of those pilgrims who were stranded at various places. Human avarice raised its head like a venomous snake at many places. In Jammu, the owners of dhabas prevented philanthropists from running free kitchen, despite knowing full well that the hapless yatris had run out of money. All such exigencies should be taken into account while planning for the future. On the Union governments recommendation, it has been decided to have the base camp at Langanbal or Chandanwari from next year instead of at Pahalgam. This will ensure that the health resort of Pahalgam does not have to bear the annual brunt of langars and tents. Sparsely populated Langanbal or Chandanwari will be able to cope with the situation better. It has also been decided to bring in legislation in the autumn session of the Assembly for constituting a shrine board for Amarnath yatra on the pattern of the Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board. The yatra is not only of immense religious significance but also provides a much-needed source of living to many local people who are in dire straits after a sharp decline in the number of tourists. This years yatra is believed to have fetched them an additional income of Rs 100 crore.
Courtesy: The Tribune
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