Pahalgam (J-K): Despite inclement weather, Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) has put in place all the arrangements for the commencement of this year's pilgrimage from here to the cave shrine in south Kashmir Himalayas.

"All the arrangements have been put in place for the commencement of the yatra from tomorrow," Chief Executive Officer of the SASB Naveen K Chaudhury told.

Chaudhury, who has been monitoring the preparations for the past two months, said the snow clearance on both traditional Pahalgam and Baltal routes has been completed.

The yatra will be opened formally tomorrow with Governor N N Vohra, who is also chairman of the SASB, performing the Pooja at the cave shrine.

The first batch of pilgrims from Jammu left today morning for Pahalgam base-camp and would reach there in the evening.

In the previous years, the authorities would allow pilgrims to proceed towards the cave a fortnight ahead of the scheduled commencement of the yatra. However, this year no pilgrim has been allowed to do so in view of the inclement weather, which resulted in delayed snow clearance.

The weather may still play a spoil sport as it has been raining intermittently along both Pahalgam and Baltal routes since on Saturday.

Yatra control rooms have been established in Nunwan and Baltal base camp and the pilgrims will only be allowed to proceed towards the cave shrine after obtaining the latest weather update from the meteorological stations set up at the base camps.

Langars (community kitchens) have been set up at both Baltal and Nunwan base camps and at all halting stations.

Stringent security arrangements have been made to ensure that the yatra is peaceful. New security measures have been introduced this year which includes installation of CCTV cameras and X-ray machines for checking the baggage of pilgrims and tourists visiting this south Kashmir resort.

Barricades and check points have been created at several places along the two routes to ensure that only registered pilgrims proceed to the holy cave shrine located at an altitude of 3,880 metres.

SASB has made it mandatory for pilgrims to get a physical fitness certificate from a medical practitioner as the yatra passes through treacherous terrain where oxygen gets rarefied as the pilgrims approach the cave shrine.

Medical certificates have been made mandatory after more than 110 pilgrims died due altitude related complications including cardiac arrests during last year's pilgrimage.

Although tents have been set up at the base camps and halting station, over 150 tent-wallahs are alleging that SASB is indulging in favouritism while granting permissions for setting up tents.

"Our applications were accepted and we have moved our tents to the Holy cave and other halting stations but now the SASB is telling us that there is no possibility of giving fresh permissions," Mohammad Khaliq, a tent-wallah, said.

Abdul Rehman, another tent-wallah, said he has taken loans in the hope of doing some business this year but SASB officials poured cold water on his hopes by denying permission.

The CEO of SASB said the board has constituted a committee, comprising the Deputy Commissioner and SSP concerned, for giving permission for setting up tents.

"We had told the committee members to take a call on the number of tents that can be erected at various camps and the two base camps," Chaudhury added.

The yatra will last for 39 days and will end on August 2, coinciding with Rakhsha Bandhan.

(Agencies)

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