The famous Vaishno Devi Shrine has won the prestigious ‘Cleanest Religious Place’ award for the current year. The Safaigiri Awards 2018 ceremony was organised in Mumbai on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti. The award has been given in recognition of the significant strides made by the Shrine Board for ensuring sanitation and cleanliness all along the tracks and in the entire Shrine area.

The award was received by Dheeraj Gupta, Chief Executive Officer of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board from Nitin Gadkari, Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways in the presence of Aroon Purie, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief, India Today Group.

It is worth mentioning that the Shrine Board, besides making concerted efforts and promoting novel initiatives to ensure utmost hygiene for the visiting pilgrims, has been continuously focusing on to keep all its establishments and the entire Shrine area neat and clean and minimize waste generation. Towards this endeavour, the Board has deployed a sanitation workforce of over 1000 persons in addition to mobilising specialized machinery for upgrading sanitation services. Special sanitation drives are carried out regularly on the adjoining hill slopes, in the Bhawan area, and all the establishments with dedicated drives on fortnightly basis for cleaning of Banganga rivulet, its embankments, and the bathing ghats.

The Board has introduced waterless urinals based on ‘flush-me-not’ technology to curtail water consumption significantly and Reverse Vending Machines to promote scientific disposal and recycling of PET bottles.

Moreover, 55 Ultra Filtration based Water Kiosks are being installed by the Board at identified locations along the track to minimize use of PET bottles and ensure ultra-filtered water free of cost to the pilgrims.

As regards Solid Waste Management, a chain of Sewage Treatment Plants has been installed at various establishments to ensure discharge of treated effluents from the toilet blocks. Besides, the Board has also experimented with scientific microbial consortium approved by the Union Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation for treating the latrine effluents of 5 Toilet Blocks on a pilot basis. Simultaneously, bio-sanitisation products prepared with consortium of different microbes and extracts of plants in the shape of powder and liquids have been introduced as a replacement of chemical based reagents to remove malodour and enhance the experience of the visiting devotees.

Further, mechanised cleaning of toilets has been implemented on the Tarakote Marg from Katra to Adhkuwari through the use of ride on machines for cleaning the track and single disc machines, vacuum cleaners, and water pressure jet machines for the Toilet Blocks.

It is worth noting that this is the second successive year when the Board has been awarded in the field of sanitation as in 2017 it had received the ‘Special Swachh Iconic Place’ award under the category of Swachh Iconic Places under the ‘Swachhta Hi Seva’ campaign of the Government of India on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti.