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Helicopter service a hit among Amarnath pilgrims

More than 1.39-lakh pilgrims, including 31 from abroad, have so far registered themselves for the pilgrimage and 28,516 have reserved chopper seats

SP Sharma | Jammu |

Within 19 days of online bookings for helicopter service were opened, as many as 28,516 Amarnath pilgrims have reserved their seats from the Pahalgam and Baltal routes.

Advance booking for helicopter service was thrown open on 27 April. More than 1.39-lakh pilgrims, including 31 from abroad, have so far registered themselves for the pilgrimage.

Governor NN Vohra, who is chairman of the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) is personally reviewing arrangements for the pilgrimage that will commence on 28 June. The pilgrimage to the cave shrine at a height of 12,756 foot has this year been extended by 20 days and as such shall continue for 60 days.

Helicopter has become a favourite mode of transport for reaching the shrine within 10 minutes to avoid the trek of about 46 kms from the Pahalgam route and the other route from Baltal is although shorter but has steep climbs. The SASB has fixed one-way helicopter fare at Rs. 1,600 from the Baltal route and Rs. 2,751 from the Pahalgam side.

The chief executive officer of the SASB, Umang Narula, is overseeing all arrangements, including security, for the pilgrims. However, the worry was about the safety of pilgrims as several terrorist groups were active in South
Kashmir where the security forces have launched an operation to eliminate them. Nine pilgrims were killed last year in a terror attack on a bus carrying pilgrims in Kashmir.

The Governor has already held a series of meetings with the top brass of the Army, CRPF, BSF, J-K Police and other agencies for effective security arrangements throughout the pilgrimage right from Jammu.

In a meeting in Srinagar on Tuesday, Vohra reviewed the status of preparations and the action being taken for timely securing the required arrangements for the Yatra.

A “Help Line” facility with shortcode 1364 has been set up, in the Additional  CEO’s office to answer queries of pilgrims. The Governor directed the CEO to ensure that the website of Shrine Board is kept constantly updated with relevant information to facilitate the pilgrims for planning
their Yatra.

The Governor observed that disaster management and preparedness should be accorded high priority. It was further directed that 9 Mobile Rescue Teams of State Police should be inducted in the Yatra area well before the pilgrimage starts.