Srinagar/New Delhi, April 11 (PTI): This year’s Amarnath Yatra is expected to be ‘much bigger’ than before, with the administration here preparing to welcome about eight lakh pilgrims to the cave shrine in south Kashmir, officials said on Monday.
The arrangements for the 43-day pilgrimage, to be held after a gap of two years due to the Covid pandemic, were discussed at a meeting here chaired by Union Information and Broadcasting Ministry secretary Apurva Chandra.
Jammu and Kashmir chief secretary Arun Kumar, divisional commissioners of Jammu and Kashmir regions, and deputy commissioners, also took part in the meeting.
Talking to reporters here, Chandra said during the meeting, it was informed that this year’s yatra scheduled to begin from June 30 is expected to “be much bigger and better than before”.
“Expectations are that this year’s yatra will be twice the size than ever before. They expect about six to eight lakh pilgrims to visit the cave shrine,” the secretary said.
He said the arrangements for the yatra will also be twice the size than previous years. “Be it drinking water, lodging, or sanitation, the whole administration is equipped to welcome a large number of pilgrims,” Chandra said.
Chief executive officer (CEO) of the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board, Nitishwar Kumar, said, “We are expecting a two-fold increase in the yatra this year and similarly, we have also done two-fold preparations to make it successful.”
Chandra, who convened the meeting for the yatra’s publicity, said arrangements will be done for the security of pilgrims. “The nation’s security agencies are on it. The security in Kashmir is good as can be seen by the huge number of tourist arrivals,” Chandra said.
The registration for the annual pilgrimage to the cave shrine of Amarnath commenced across the country on Monday. It could not be held in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic.
In 2019, the yatra was cut short days before August 5, when the Centre abrogated Article 370.
During the meeting, Chandra said activities related to the pilgrimage will be projected throughout the country and focus will also be on showcasing tourism in the region.
“There is a need to highlight the various achievements of the Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir administration with respect to developmental work done in the Union Territory. We need to amplify such positive stories about the region throughout the country. Six to eight lakh pilgrims are expected to cover the yatra this year,” he said.
Chief secretary Kumar said that this year’s yatra will record the highest numbers because of better facilities.
“The Amarnath Yatra is a prime example of composite culture and fraternity which has been preserved since ages by the cordial working of locals with pilgrims,” he said, adding that the administration has taken every measure to provide better facilities and roadside amenities to make the journey convenient.
Joint secretary in the ministry, Vikram Sahay, urged media units to carry out wide publicity about the detailed procedures of the yatra, including registration.
He added that there is an absolute need to highlight the positive environment of Jammu and Kashmir which will clear all doubts about the pilgrimage.
This, Sahay said, will invite more and more people from all across the country to become a part of this journey.
Deliberations were also held on amplifying information related to the pilgrimage by N V Reddy, principal director general (News), All India Radio, and Mayank Agrawal, director general, Doordarshan.
“They emphasized that the media units will take initiatives to highlight the developmental work done in J&K at national level and also in regional languages,” the ministry said in a statement.
The shrine board CEO urged media units to highlight the advisories for yatris from time to time and added that Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags will be used this year to keep a track of the location of the pilgrims.