COVID-19: J&K Admn adopts ‘wait & watch’ policy before final call on this year’s Amarnath pilgrimage, deliberations on

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Jammu: As the day for the state of annual Shri Amarnath Yatra is nearing, Jammu and Kashmir Administration is adopting ‘wait & watch’ policy before taking the final decision on pilgrimage as there is no respite from surging COVID-19 cases.However, the deliberations are already in progress between the J & K Administration, Shri Amarnath Shrine Board and the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Official sources said that the dialogues at administrative level are in progress and the government may soon take a call on whether to go ahead with the yatra with a cap on the number of pilgrims or to cancel it.“Corona crisis is deepening with each passing day due to which there are clouds on the annual pilgrimage,” they added.
Sources said that the final decision on pilgrimage is to be taken in the meeting of Shri Amarnath Shrine Board, to be chaired by the Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha, likely to be held in the coming week.“There are reports that the COVID cases may dip by mid of June,” they said, adding that some board members have advised not to completely cancel the pilgrimage and let it be a ‘wait and watch’ situation before taking a final call.
“Some members are pressing for yatra with limited numbers through helicopters and some are of the opinion to cancel,” sources added. “In case the government cancels the pilgrimage, then only Mahant Deependra Giri, the custodian of the holy mace of Lord Shiva, will carry it to the Cave Shrine for the annual worship as per rituals,” they said.
Last year too, the pilgrimage was cancelled for the first time in the history due to COVID situation and in the year 2019, it was postponed as the Centre apprehended law and order problem in view of Abrogation of Article 370, 35-A.During this period as well, the holy mace was taken to the Cave Shrine by the Mahant Deepender Giri.
The registration of devotees for the annual pilgrimage-2021 was started on April 1, 2021 and like various parts of the country, it was closed indefinitely on April 22 in view of the surging cases of corona infection across the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.This year the pilgrimage is to begin on June 28 and conclude on the occasion of Shravan Purnima on the occasion of Rakshabandhan (August 22).
The Jammu and Kashmir government had expected a footfall of around 6 lakh yatries this year and had made many preparations for a safe and hassle-free pilgrimage.