SRINAGAR: The registration for this year’s Amarnath yatra has been suspended temporarily in view of the grim and worrisome COVID-19 situation across the country.
Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) on Thursday announced that it is constantly monitoring the situation and that the registration would be restarted once it improves.
"In view of evolving COVID situation in the country & the need to take all necessary precautionary measures, registration for Shri Amarnath ji Yatra is being temporarily suspended. The situation is being constantly monitored and it would be reopened once the situation improves,” the SASB wrote on its Twitter handle.
The registration of the pilgrims had opened through 446 designated branches of Punjab National Bank, Jammu and Kashmir Bank and YES Bank, located in 37 states and Union Territories on April 1.
The annual pilgrimage spreading over 56 days to the revered cave-shrine at a height of 13,000 feet (3882 m) in lower-Himalayas in south Kashmir is scheduled to begin from both traditional Pahalgam and shorter Baltal routes on June 28, coinciding with Ashaad Chaturthi, an auspicious day in Hindu calendar, and conclude on Shravan Purnima (Raksha Bandhan) on August 22.
The authorities have this year increased the pilgrims' intake by five thousand a day. They have also said that they are making arrangements to host over 600,000 devotees during the event after SASB decided to enhance the daily route-wise pilgrim ceiling from 7, 500 to 10,000 on each route excluding the pilgrims who would be flying in helicopters to Amaranth. The SASB had on March 13 said that the pilgrims’ intake has been increased "considering the carrying capacity of the existing tracks and other available infrastructure in the yatra area." It, however, also said that the yatra would be held "as per COVID-19 SOPs developed by the government".
As J&K’s Lt. Governor, Manoj Sinha, who is also the chairman of the SASB had directed for issuance of special invitations to Akhada Parishads and Acharya Parishads, its CEO Nitishwar Kumar recently visited Haridwar to handed over formal invitations various religious leaders including Swamis Avdheshanand Giri and Narendra Giri, presidents of Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha and Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad, respectively.
Last year, the yatra was cancelled at the eleventh hour in the face of the threat posed by the pandemic whereas in 2019 the government had asked devotees who had arrived in the Valley to pay obeisance at Amarnath and also tourists to cut short their visit and leave immediately, claiming that Pakistan-sponsored militants were planning terror attack against the yatra whereas the lives of the outside holidaymakers too were in danger in view of the prevailing security situation in the Valley.
The subsequent events, however, proved it beyond a shadow of a doubt that all the statements issued and measures taken by the government and various official agencies right from mid-July 2019 were part of the government’s ‘strategy’ to ensure return of pilgrims and tourists from the Valley before the Centre's stripping Jammu and Kashmir of its special status under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution and splitting it up into two Union Territories on August 5, 2019....