NGT caps number of pilgrims to Vaishno Devi at 50,000 per day

NEW DELHI
13 Nov 2017

Only 50,000 pilgrims will be allowed to visit the Vaishno Devi shrine in Jammu to avoid any untoward incident, the National Green Tribunal directed today. The green panel also said that a new path to the shrine exclusively for pedestrians and battery-operated cars will be opened from November 24. The NGT directed that no horses or mules shall be allowed on the new route to the shrine and these anmimals shall be removed slowly from the old path as well. It also directed the authorities to impose a fine (environment compensation) of Rs 2,000 on anyone found littering the roads as well as the bus stop at the nearby Katra town.
The NGT bench headed by chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar made it clear that if the number of pilgrims exceeds the prescribed 50,000 cap, they will be stopped at Ardhkuwari or Katra town, considering that the Vaishno Devi Bhawan structure cannot accomodate more than 50,000 persons. The green panel's directions came during the hearing of a plea filed by an activist seeking directions to stop the use of horses and ponies in Vaishno Devi shrine premises in Jammu, prompting the green panel to seek response from the government on the issue.
The petitioner had expressed concern over the "pollution and danger to public health" caused by indiscriminate use of horses, ponies, mules and donkeys, to carry pilgrims and goods from Katra to the Vaishno Devi temple. The directions came while NGT was hearing a plea filed by activist Gauri Maulekhi seeking to remove horses and mules from the path to the shrine, saying it was dangerous for the pedestrians, especially the senior citizens. "The new path which was constructed for Rs 40 crore should be positevely opened to public by November 24. No further time will be granted and, in default, appropriate action will be taken against the concerned authorities.," it said.
Meanwhile, a total of 19 fire fighting units with latest ‘fire-combat’ equipment have been set up along the trek to the 5200 feet high Mata Vaishnodevi shrine. "On the directions of Governor N N Vohra, Chairman of the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board, in-house fire fighting units have been established at major Yatra locations - Adhkuwari, Himkoti and Bhawan," a senior officer of the Board said. The fire fighting units include fully fabricated mini- fire tenders with water storage capacity of 400 litres and a throw distance of 20 feet, he added.
"These units are fully equipped with all modern gadgets, including fire suits, goggles, breathers, first-aid kit etc. Each Fire Tender is supported with a mini-water tanker for replenishment during fire fighting operations," he added. The officer said the decision to set up in-house fire fighting units was taken up considering the forest fire prone nature of the tracks to the shrine, particularly during peak summer months, and also to deal with any accidental fire incidents.(PTI)