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Modi Govt's priority is to ensure comfort, security of pilgrims during Amarnath Yatra: Amit Shah

NEW DELHI: Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Friday said the Narendra Modi government's priority is to ensure that Amarnath pilgrims have a comfortable visit and directed officials to make adequate security arrangements along the entire pilgrimage route in Jammu and Kashmir.

The home minister said this while chairing a high-level meeting where he took stock of the preparations for the Amarnath pilgrimage with top officials of the central government, Army and the Jammu and Kashmir administration.

The 62-day-long annual pilgrimage to the cave shrine of Amarnath, located at a height of 3,880 metres in the south Kashmir Himalayas, will begin on July 1 and continue till August 31.

During the meeting, the home minister said it is the priority of the Narendra Modi government that Amarnath pilgrims should have comfortable ''darshan'' and should not face any difficulty. He directed officials to make adequate security arrangements on the entire route of Amarnath pilgrimage, according to an official statement.

The pilgrims travel through two routes -- Baltal and Pahalgam -- in Jammu and Kashmir.

At the meeting, it was apprised that all the pilgrims will be given RFID cards so that their real-time location can be traced and everyone will be given Rs 5 lakh insurance cover. There will be insurance cover of Rs 50,000 for each animal carrying pilgrims.

Shah stressed on providing smooth arrangements on the route from the airport and railway station to the pilgrimage base camp and directed to make available air service from Srinagar and Jammu at night for the convenience of the pilgrims.

The home minister also directed to ensure adequate stock of oxygen cylinders and their refilling and asked for availability of additional teams of doctors.

He directed to ensure adequate number of medical beds and deployment of ambulances and helicopters to meet any medical emergency.

Shah gave instructions to make proper arrangements for all necessary facilities for the pilgrims and that include travel, stay, electricity, water, communication and health. He directed to ensure better communication system on the pilgrimage routes and deployment of machines to immediately open routes in case of a landslide. Besides, arrangements for tent city, Wi-Fi hotspots and proper lighting will be made on the travel routes. Additionally, online-live ''Darshan of Baba Barfani'', live telecast of morning and evening ''aarti'' in the holy Amarnath cave and religious and cultural programmes will be organised at the base camps, the statement said.

Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha, the Army's Northern Command chief Lieutenant General Upendra Dwivedi, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla, Director of Intelligence Bureau Tapan Deka were among the top functionaries who attended the meeting.

Sources said all stakeholders of the pilgrimage have taken part in the meeting and all issues relating to arrangements being made for it have been been discussed.

Last year, 3.45 lakh people visited the holy cave and this year, the figure could go up to 5 lakh, they said.

The sources said that to avoid any incident like last year's flash flood which claimed 16 lives near the shrine, the National Disaster Response Force has started identifying ideal locations for setting up pilgrim camps keeping in mind any possible unforeseen natural disaster.

Indian Air Force helicopters are expected to be deployed to carry out aerial sorties in the upper reaches of the holy cave to check for glacial events and the formation of lakes that may trigger flash floods downhill.

Last year, such sorties were conducted only after the flash floods occurred in June, but this year, the exercise will be undertaken before the start of the pilgrimage and at continuous intervals during the two-month yatra, the sources said.

The aerial surveys may be conducted by a team with expertise in remote sensing and satellite, hydrology and disaster response. Once a dangerous water build-up is spotted, contingency measures will be taken all along the pilgrimage route, especially in the areas near the cave shrine, they added.

Recently, a lot of snow has been found along both the routes - Baltal and Pahalgam - leading to the holy cave and therefore the Border Roads Organisation has been given the task to clear the snow by June 15, the sources said.

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