Amarnath Board to study yatra impact on Kashmir economy

Srinagar, Sept. 13 (PTI): The Amarnath Shrine Board is setting up an expert committee to carry out a survey on the impact of the annual Amarnath yatra on Jammu and Kashmir’s economy.

The proposed committee would be formed on the lines of a panel formed to survey the impact of Vashino Devi pilgrimage on the state’s economy, Governor S K Sinha, who is also Chairman of the Board, said at a function here Tuesday evening.

Speaking on the occasion, CEO of the Board, Arun Kumar, said the Amarnath and Vaishno Devi yatras have helped the economy of the region.

Quoting a recent study conducted by IIT, Delhi, he said 70 lakh pilgrims visiting Vaishno Devi had contributed Rs 670 crore to the economy. The figure for Amarnath yatra, he said, could be around Rs 40 crore.

On controversies about duration of the yatra and early melting of Shiv Lingam at the shrine, Sinha said everybody has a right to express their feelings and the views expressed would be taken in the right perspective, and necessary corrective measures taken on making the pilgrimage smooth.

On the early melting of Shiv Lingam this year, he said various possibilities were being suggested for its preservation without touching or tampering it. However, religious sentiments of the people would be taken into consideration.

He said despite early melting of the lingam, about three lakh pilgrims visited the shrine this year.

The Governor said a mechanism would be evolved to reduce inconvenience caused to tourist from within and outside the state who visit Pahalgam during the two-month yatra.

Sinha said elaborate measures had been taken this year to ensure smooth yatra with emphasis on preservation and combating pollution. No deep trench latrines were allowed to be raised, and instead 20,000 pre-fabricated toilets and bathrooms were raised at a cost of Rs 2 crores.

Praising the people of Kashmir for their valuable and whole-hearted support during the yatra, he said it reflects the deep bonds of brotherhood and amity in the land of sufis and saints.

The SASB CEO said during the current yatra donation of Rs 2.50 crores was made by devotees against last year’s 2.38 crores.

About helicopter services, Lumar said it proved to be very popular as ticket sales touched Rs 13.66 crores against last year’s Rs 11 crores.

The CEO said 42 pilgrims died during the pilgrimage which includes one Muslim pilgrim from Ajmer. The oldest pilgrim who died was 82-years-old, and the youngest 13. Last year 45 pilgrims had died.

The Governor also gave away mementos and certificates to 120 officers and personnel of civil administration, army, BSF, CRPF, Jammu and Kashmir Police, telecom department and others who helped in the smooth conduct of the yatra.

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