Yatris enroute to cave shrine – File Photo: Abid Bhat
Jammu- The registration for the annual pilgrimage to the cave shrine of Amarnath in south Kashmir commenced across the country on Monday with enthusiastic pilgrims making a beeline for designated bank branches to secure a permit for undertaking the journey.
The 43-day yatra is scheduled to start on June 30 after the coronavirus pandemic enforced break of two years. The journey will begin from the twin routes — the traditional 48-km from Nunwan to the cave shrine from Pahalgam in south Kashmir’s Anantnag, and 14-km shorter but steep Baltal route in Ganderbal district of central Kashmir.
The government, this year, is also introducing a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) system for pilgrims to track their movement en-route to ensure their well-being.
Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB), which manages the annual pilgrimage, has designated 566 branches across the country for the registration of the pilgrims, in addition to the facility on its website.
According to SASB, no one below the age of 13 years or above the age of 75 years, and no woman with more than six week’s pregnancy, shall be registered for the yatra.
The registration has started at our branches in Rehari, Katra, Reasi, Akhnoor and Samba in Jammu and Kashmir besides 316 other branches across the country, Deputy General Manager, Punjab National Bank (PNB), Jammu Circle, Yatinder Kumar told reporters at Rehari branch here where several pilgrims registered for the yatra on the first day.
He said the pilgrims have to submit an application, compulsory health certificate from SASB-designated hospitals, four photographs and a fee of Rs 120.
However, those who have registered for the yatra last year, but could not undertake the pilgrimage have to deposit only Rs 20 as fees, the official said, adding that those pilgrims who have crossed 75 years of age would be refunded Rs 100 which have been deposited as registration fee with the application last year after depositing the permit slip.
Kumar said each branch of PNB will register 30 intending pilgrims on a daily basis 15 each for the twin routes of Pahalgam and Baltal.
We are very happy over the restart of the yatra after a gap of two years we are thankful to the government, Ranjeet Singh, a local resident, said.
He said he had already performed the yatra 14 times in the past from both the routes and had never faced any problem.
This time, the shrine board has made additional arrangements and we are eagerly waiting for the day to have darshan’ (glimpse) of the naturally formed ice shivling,” Singh added.
Besides the Punjab National Bank, the registration can also be done at designated branches of Jammu and Kashmir Bank, YES bank and State Bank of India.
Officials further said the registration and issue of yatra permit will be done on a first come-first-serve basis for the yatra, which will commence on June 30 with all Covid protocols in place and will culminate, as per the tradition, on the day of Raksha Bandhan (August 11).
The Amarnath Yatra was cancelled midway in 2019 ahead of abrogation of Article 370 in August that year, while only a symbolic yatra was observed during the past two years due to the outbreak of the pandemic.
During this year’s yatra, SASB has decided to put in place a daily route-wise pilgrims ceiling to 10,000, excluding those travelling by helicopters.
The board has also decided to extend the free-of-cost battery car service for the pilgrims at the 2.75 km-long Baltal to Domel stretch. (PTI)
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