www.pahalgam.com | Pahalgam and Amarnath Yatra 2005 in News
Pahalgam development authority gets new posts
Newsline From J and K Government Dec 19, 2005
Jammu, December 19 (INFO)-The Cabinet which met here today under the chairmanship of Chief Minister, Mr. Ghulam Nabi Azad sanctioned creation of 82 posts of different categories for the five development authorities of Pahalgam, Sonamarg, Patnitop, Gulmarg and Kokernag.
Cabinet also cleared clearance of 147 posts for seven newly created development authorities of Kishtwar, Bhaderwah, Poonch, Rajouri, Lakhanpur, Sarthal, Kargil and Leh. Cabinet also approved creation of one post of Chief Executive Officer for Gulmarg Development Authority.
Sanction was also accorded for setting up of two more development authorities for Zanskar and Mansar-Sruinsar.
The Cabinet also directed for creation of posts for newly created development authorities of Aharbal, Doodapathri, Veerinag, Yousemarg, Wullar- Mansbal as per standing norms.
Kabaddi state championship held at Pahalgam
Newsline From J and K Government Dec 14, 2005
Superintendent of Bal Ashram, Udhampur informed that inmates of the Ashram participated in national championships held at Goa and Ranchi under Sub Junior National Championships of Kabaddi besides taking part in state championship held at Pahalgam and won gold medal and cash prize worth Rs.6, 000.
Reports of fresh snowfall received from Sheshnag, Mahaguns, Pisso top and Panjtherni on the Pahalgam
New Kerela.com Dec 05, 2005
Plunging mercury and fog disrupt life in Kashmir
Srinagar: The entire Kashmir valley is reeling under severe cold conditions with the the minimum temperature dipping to minus 3.8 degree C.

Early morning dense fog, coupled with icy cold winds and frequent power cuts, disrupted normal life and forced people to remain indoors.

A weather office spokesman told UNI that the minimum temperature was minus 3.8 degree C, one degree below normal.

The dry weather for the past week in the plains has exacerbated the cold conditions.

Haj pilgrims, who had to report at the Tourist Reception Centre (TRC) for onward journey to the Airport in the morning, faced difficulties in travelling bacause of very poor visibility due to the fog.

The water tapes were also frozen due to dipping temperature, disrupting water supply.

Meanwhile, light to heavy snowfall continued on the upper reaches in the Kashmir valley.

About four feet of snowfall had accumulated at the holy Amarnath cave shrine.

Reports of fresh snowfall were also received from Sheshnag, Mahaguns, Pisso top and Panjtherni on the Pahalgam-cave route.

The Zojila pass, the highest point on the 434-km-long Srinagar-Leh national highway, also received fresh snowfall. The highway was closed by the authorities for six months on November 17.
The road leading to Pahalgam is being upgraded to double lane and four lane highways
Newsline From J and K Government Dec 04, 2005
New Delhi, December 04 (INFO) ' An amount of Rs. 500 crore are being spent by Urban Development Department of Jammu and Kashmir State on Harwan Tourist Resort, for its development to give boost to tourism sector in the State. This was disclosed by the Minister for Urban Development, Environment and Forests Mr. Tariq Hameed Karra while speaking at Domestic Tour Evening organized by the Association of Domestic Tour Operators of India and co-sponsored by Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Department, at Hotel Hayaat here yesterday.

Mr. Karra said that Rs. 300 crore are also being spent on Dal Development Project, by the Urban Development Department of J and K State. He said that the Forest Department is also taking up Eco-Tourism in selected forest areas of the State. He said Jammu and Kashmir is traditional tourist destination with a great diversity, and each region of the State has a variety of tourist attractions, which are known world over.

The Minister said that the pilgrim tourism in Jammu has helped in phenomenal growth of the economy of the region, he said that State has been promoting other pilgrim destinations beyond Karra like Shiv Khori, Baba Dhansal, Siard Baba and other so that the stay of the pilgrims is extended.

He said that likewise the department has decided substaintial resources towards festivals and events in the lean season which helps in extending the tourist season in Ladakh. He said that a massive tourism infrastructure development plan has been taken in hand by the Government. The roads leading to Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Sonamarg are being upgraded to double lane and four lane highways. The overall management of these resorts has vastly improved due to the constitution of the development of authorities.

With a view to expand and promote rural tourism, the State is vigorously implementing a scheme under which 50 tourist villages will be created in the different parts during next five year. These tourist villages will promote traditional crafts, performing arts as also provide access and infrastructure travel, and stay facilitates to tourists in these areas.

He said that the efforts of the travel trade and State Government have resulted in phenomenal growth of tourists arrivals during last three years. He said that non-pilgrim tourism went up from 27,000 in 2002 to about 6 lakh in the current year.

Mr. Karra said that two more airlines are now flying to Jammu Srinagar Delhi, the frequency of flights will substantially increase, which will necessarily boost the tourism.

He said that Kashmir has sufficient infrastructure for promoting winter tourism the resorts of Gulmarg and Pahalgam will remain fully operational in the current winter the winter sports viz skiing, snow biking ice skating etc. shall be the main attraction.

Mr. Karra appealed to ADTOI to work towards promoting travel to Kashmir in current winter season in a big way. He said that the Tourism Department and ADTOI can coordinate whatever steps need to be taken for this purpose.

J& K to lay out a floral path for its tourists
PTI Dec 9, 2005
Already famous as the 'paradise on earth' among tourists the world over, the Jammu & Kashmir government has decided to showcase the state as an 'abode of flowers' now to attract the maximum number of visitors, particularly during the lean tourist seasons.

'The state tourism ministry has decided to showcase Kashmir as an abode of flowers now, apart from its already famous picture as that of a paradise in the eyes of world tourists and nature lovers,' Jammu & Kashmir tourism ministry sources said.

A blue print in this direction is being prepared by the J and K tourism ministry, and this would be presented before Chief Minister Gulam Nabi Azad, they said.

Adding to its list of beautiful gardens, the chief minister had, on November 14, ordered the creation of a tulip garden in the heart of the Srinagar city on the lines of Holland, as another attraction for tourists, besides developing the existing parks and gardens in the state in a phased and systematic manner.

Besides further development of the Bagh-e-Bahu in Jammu, Zanana park would also be developed as one of the best parks in the state, they said.

Under this project, top priority will be accorded to the development and plantation of new varieties of flowers in the gardens and parks, which are thronged by maximum number of tourists. At the first instance, the Mughal Gardens, the Botanical Garden, Cachigam, Pari Mahal and Harwah, besides parks at Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Achhabal and Kokernag in the Kashmir valley would be made more attractive.

In this direction, plantation of about twelve varieties of flower bearing trees, that are quite popular in the union capital would take place in Jammu. These varieties blossom right from February to November.

These flower-bearing trees willbe planted in Bagh-e-Bahu as elsewhere also.
DCM visits fire sufferers of Pahalgam, Maisuma
Newsline From J and K Government Nov 9, 2005
Deputy Chief Minister, Muzaffar Hussain Baig today visited Pahalgam in Anantnag and Maisuma in Srinagar to take stock of the damages caused by two separate fire incident yesterday.
Immediately on his arrival from Jammu, the Deputy Chief Minister rushed to Pahalgam were nine shops, a hotel and two Dhabas in the main market were gutted in a fire incident yesterday.

The Deputy Chief Minister was informed that major loss of property was averted due to the timely deployment of around a dozen fire-fighters pressed into action immediately after the blaze appeared in the market. He directed the District administration to assess the losses and ensure that the relief is provided to the affected persons within seven days. He, however, asked the shopkeepers not to deviate from the architectural symmetry in vogue in the market while raising new structures.

The Deputy Chief Minister ordered construction of a water reservoir in the market to tackle any such eventualities in future as the locals complained that there was shortage of water to tackle the fire. He also ordered deployment of more fire tenders in the area.

The Deputy Chief Minister also visited the site of the Pahalgam Club which was gutted in a fire incident recently. He said work on the Club building would be started soon and it would have multi-faceted facilities to cater to the requirement of the tourists.

The Deputy Chief Minister interacted with the tourists present at the resort and enquired about their welfare. They expressed satisfaction over the facilities present in the area.

Mr Baig also chaired a joint meeting of the district administration and the local citizens to know about the problems of the area and what steps could be taken to further improve the tourist facilities there. He was informed that 7.25 lakh tourists have visited Pahalgam upto October 31 this year while the number of tourists who visited the resort during the corresponding period of the previous year was 4.50 lakh.

The Deputy Chief Minister was informed that a world-class Golf Course is being developed at Pahalgam over 1100 kanals of land at a cost of Rs 4.32 crore while a Ski resort is also proposed there. The Pahalgam Development Authority has also formulated a Rs 13 crore project for drainage and sewerage of the resort, he was told.

Later, the Deputy Chief Minister visited the Maisuma area of Srinagar where several newspaper offices and shops were gutted in a fire incident in Dar building preceding night. He asked the District Development Commissioner Srinagar to assess the damages caused to the affected persons and process their cases for immediate relief.

Director General Tourism, Mr Mohammad Salim Baig, District Development Commissioner Anantnag, Mr Baseer Khan, District Development Commissioner, Srinagar, Mr Asgar Samoon and other senior officers accompanied the Deputy Chief Minister.

2 hotels, 11 shops gutted in Pahalgam
GreaterKashmir.com Nov 8, 2005
Two hotels and 11 shops were gutted in a devastating fire in Pahalgam on Tuesday damaging property worth crores.
The fire emanated from the Khalsa Janta Hotel at 12: 15 pm and engulfed other structures in the vicinity. According to the police sources, the fire was caused due to bursting of cylinder in the hotel, which engulfed the structure in minutes. The damaged structures are Sher-e-Punjab Hotel, Pahalgam Hotel, Kashmir Handloom, Preetam Studio, R K Studio, Darpan Studio, Kashmir Shawl House and Pahalgam General Store.
The fire tenders and personnel of fire services reached within minutes on the spot and took control of the fire in an hour. Police has started investigation in the incident.
Fire at Pahalgam`s tourist resort leaves several injured
WebIndia123.com Nov 8, 2005
At least a dozen people sustained burns in a devastating fire at the tourist resort of Pahalgam in South Kashmir where four hotels and as many residential houses besides eighteen shops were destroyed today, official sources said.
The fire broke out at Khalsa Janta hotel around 12.15 hrs at Pahalgam and engulfed the adjacent hotels and residential buildings, the sources said.

They said eight fire fighters rushed to the spot from different directions to control the blaze.

However, the flames could be controlled only after three hours, they said.

Four hotels including Khalsa Janata hotel, Sher-e-Punjab hotel and Pahalgam hotel, four residential houses, three godowns, and twenty shops were completely destroyed in the incident, the sources added.

About a dozen people including three fire men received burn wounds during the operation.

The injured have been admitted to hospitals.

The loss of property and the cause of the fire is being ascertained by the officials, the sources added.
Amarnath yatra concludes today
The Hindu Aug 19, 2005
Srinagar, Aug. 19 (UNI): The two-month-long incident-free Amarnath yatra will come to an end today on the Raksha Bandhan day as nearly five lakh pilgrims pay obeisance at the holy cave shrine since the commencement of the annual pilgrimage on June 21.

About 60 pilgrims including 11 women, have died of cardiac arrest or from accidents during the yatra.

The 'Charri Mubarak', the holy mace of Lord Shiva, is scheduled to reach the holy cave shrine today on 'Shravan - Purnima' and will be brought back to Pahalgam the same evening.

About five lakh pilgrims from all over the country and abroad visited the holy Amarnath cave this year through Baltal and traditional Pahalgam routes.

Thousands of people lined up everyday to have a darshan of the "ice lingam" of Lord Shiva at the holy cave shrine of Amarnath.

However, the "icy Shivalingam" completely melted on August 2, much to the disappointment of devotees thronging the holy cave shrine from all over the country.

Rise in temperature due to rush of pilgrims, use of cameras, burning of incense and other human interferences in the cave were responsible for lingam's premature melting.

The lingam is formed naturally with an ice stalagmite, which waxes and wanes with the moon.

The holy cave of Amarnath, where the lingam is formed is situated in a narrow gorge at the far end of the Lidder valley at an altitude of 3,888 metres and the temperature is always at sub-zero level.

The Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) had last year proposed to create a scientific mechanism for the longevity of the ice lingam at the cave shrine.

It had also approached the Defence and Research Development Authority (DRDO) to send a team to preserve it and prevent its premature melting.

The duration of the yatra had become a bone of contention between Jammu and Kashmir Governor Lt Gen (retd) S K Sinha and Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed.

The controversy, which dragged on for months, was finally settled after both Gen. Sinha and Sayeed agreed to start the two-month-long yatra from June 21 via Baltal.

The Governor, who is also the SASB Chairman, was advocating two month-long pilgrimage every year for greater satisfaction of yatris and to help give boost to the local economy.

On the other hand, the Chief Minister had stressed the need for limiting the duration of the yatra to one month only due to security concerns.
Chari taken to Pahalgam amidst tight security
GreaterKashmir Aug 15, 2005
Srinagar, Aug 15: The ''Chari Mubarak'', the mace of Lord Shiva, left for traditional Amarnath base camp at Pahalgam Monday afternoon amidst tight security.
The Mahant Deependra Giri, Mahant of the holy mace, besides a large number of sadhus, accompanied the Chari.
Prior to the turmoil, the mace used to leave Dashnami Akhara shortly before sunset and resting at Durganag temple at Dalgate for a night before moving towards Mattan temple in Islamabad.
However, in view of the security aspect, the authorities later decided that Chari would leave in the morning so that it could reach Pahalgam via Temple Township of Mattan before the Road Opening Parties of the security forces are withdrawn in the evening.
Mahant Deepender Giri, before boarding the vehicle along with the mace, told reporters near the Dashnami Akhara building that he will offer special prayers for peace in Kashmir.
He said the yatra would conclude on August 19 and the mace will be brought to Pahalgam on same evening.
Rattled by rumours, Srinagar heads for the hills
Indian Express Aug 14, 2005
SRINAGAR, AUGUST 14: A hush has descended on Srinagar, on the broad stretches of the deserted markets, on the boulevard along Dal lake, along river Jhelum and on the congested downtown localities. Hours to go for the Independence Day function at the Bakshi stadium here, security forces have taken over the roads.

With rumours of car and human bombs doing the rounds, nobody is taking any chances. ''We have Intelligence inputs that militants are planning car-bomb attacks. But we are taking preventive and detective measures to pre-empt any such attempt,'' says DIG, Kashmir, H K Lohia.

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The empty bazaars of the city may have made the job easier. Srinagar wears the look of a city without its people. Even in the deep interiors, in the lanes and bylanes of the city, far away from the heavy security bandobast, the movement is less than usual.

So where have the people gone' The answer comes from a policeman at a checking point. ''What are you doing here in the city' Why have you not gone to Gulmarg or Pahalgam,'' he asks passers-by who line up to be searched.

Far away from the Srinagar, in Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Sonamarg, Yusmarg and a number of other health resorts of the Valley, the green walkways and the horse trails are humming with people. Every hotel, every hut and even rooms in the houses of nearby villagers in the places are occupied, reports say.

''We have a huge number of visitors from Srinagar and other major towns. And they are not day tourists, which is the case on routine days, but those who have come to stay for the two days, from August 14-15,'' says Gulmarg Development Authority CEO, Farooq Ahmad Shah. ''Every accommodation is occupied, booked by people a fortnight ago,'' he adds.

And it's not as if these spots are bereft of any security cover. Even at these places, visitors is let in after a thorough checking and verification of the identity. ''There is a check point at the entry point to Gulmarg. Each vehicle and every visitor is frisked before entry into the place,'' says Ashiq Hussain, a visitor, on telephone from the resort.
Amarnath Yatra suspended in view of militant threats
PTI Aug 14, 2005
Jammu, Aug 14 (PTI) Amarnath Yatra was today suspended in view of militant threats to carry out attacks on the occasion of Independence Day.
In view of the security situation on the eve of Independence Day, Amarnath Yatra from Jammu to Pahalgam has been suspended as also from Pahalgam to the cave shrine, top officials told PTI.

"Today's batch of pilgrims has cancelled its journey in view of apprehension of a militant attack and no pilgrims today journeyed towards Pahalgam from Jammu," they said.

No pilgrim would be allowed to move to Kashmir valley, they said adding the last batch of pilgrims will leave for holy cave from the transit camp of M A Stadium here on August 17.

The two-month-long Amarnath Yatra will conclude on August 19. A batch of 145 pilgrims, the lowest till now, left for Pahalgam base camp from Jammu winter capital yesterday.
Kashmir or Switzerland'
GreaterKashmir.com August 9, 2005
Only Switzerland can be a match to the beauty of Kashmir. That's perhaps the reason tourist come from all parts of the world, J N Raina writes on plans to make Kashmir more attractive for visitors
Kashmir valley is beginning to show its beauty once again. Several thousand tourists thronged Gulmarg and Pahalgam this summer.
Inquisitive tourists call upon their ponywallas (horsemen) to show them Cashmere (early spelling of Kashmir) and apple orchards in Pahalgam, the place that serves a gateway to the holy cave-shrine of Amarnath, the abode of Lord Shiva.
Whether apples really grow there at an altitude of 7500 feet, I was myself bewildered. When I asked a horseman, he merely laughed, indicating how domestic tourists are serious and curious to see apple orchards in Kashmir. The Jammu and Kashmir Government's Tourism Department, or may be the Pahalgam Development Authority has designated a scenic spot in Pahalgam, as 'Cashmere'. Astrologers believe if the name of Kashmir is re-christened as 'Cashmere', it will augur well for Kashmir. It will no more be the Vale of tears'. The 'Paradise lost' will be regained to its natives.
Kashmir's Tourism Minister Ghulam Hassan Mir told me recently that 16 years of militancy had created hurdles in the infrastructure development of world class tourism. Only one-tenth of the valley's potential had been exploited to attract tourists globally, he observed.
'Switzerland is man-made; but Kashmir is God-made', Mir averred. Only Switzerland can be a match to Kashmir. The valley is beautiful in all its four seasons ' spring, summer, autumn and winter. I guess, if a contest is held between Switzerland and Kashmir, by God, Kashmir will be declared as `Beauty Queen'.
The department has planned to introduce world-class golf tourism, because Asia's best golf courses are available in Gulmarg. Now Sonamarg and Pahalgam will also be developed to attract golfers of international fame. Gulmarg is India's premier ski resorts. With the setting up of the Gondola Cable Car, Gulmarg has become one of the highest lift-served ski resorts in the world. The Cable Car goes up to Kongdori (10,200 ft) providing a down hill ski run of about three km. With the commissioning of the final phase of the project, skiers are now able to ride to a height of 14,000 ft in the Afarwat range, making Gulmarg the highest lift-served ski resorts of the world.
The idea is to involve local populace in tourism-related activities. For this purpose, Mir said, the State Government has envisaged developing 'Rural Tourism' or 'village Tourism'. Schemes are there to train people to use their talent in tourism-development activities. To begin with, 50 villages have been selected for the purpose. The Centre has come up with liberal aid of Rs. 20 crore for each project, he said. Such measures are bound to provide major facilities for tourists. New places like Drung (near Gulmarg), Dudpathri and Bangus are being developed to diversify tourist influx. He was hopeful that with the opening of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road, tourists from Pakistan will get attracted towards Kashmir. 'They have an emotional attachment with our part of Kashmir', he observed. Uri near the Line of Control, en route to Muzaffarabad, will be developed as a new tourist destination. In fact, the entire scenic route will get a face-lift to cater to the new tourist traffic.
While the State Tourism Development Corporation is doing its best to take care of the tourists, the State Road Transport Corporation (5RTC) is in shambles. The officials often mess up with the seating arrangement, allotting the same seat to two or three tourists. Either the passengers indulge in unnecessary argument, or they will be asked by the rude conductor to sit in the cabin next to the driver's seat, where four to five additional passengers, picked up en route, are herded together. There is no guide in the sight-seeing Government-run tourist buses.
Snow skiing, rafting, trekking and water skiing will form part of the tourist trade in a big way, to add charm to the existing other attractions. The Government intends to set-up quality educational institutions to attract foreign students, who can take advantage of the salubrious valley atmosphere.
Private sector will be involved in a big way to develop new sites. Hotel industry will receive a fillip with liberal financial assistance. It is for the private sector to play a vital role in giving full exposure to Kashmir's beauty. Private operators can arrange special tourist bus trips and show them many other tourist resorts, other than Gulmarg and Pahalgam, not generally seen by the tourists for paucity of time.
It was during 1988-89 the valley had attracted a record number of 7.22 lakh tourists. But subsequently tourism industry received a serious setback when peace got derailed because of terrorism. Tourism was revived again. Last year, over four lakh tourists visited the valley. This year, the figure is likely to get doubled according to official estimates.
Asked about the conservation of the world-famous Dal Lake, the minister said his government was trying to retrieve Dal Lake to its original glory, or at least save it from further decay. Dal Lake, he maintained, is an urban lake, being in the vicinity of the state's summer capital Srinagar. It has its own problems. All kinds of sewage find way into it. Now water treatment plants are being set up at three places and waste water is being treated before it falls into the lake.
It is recalled that a Parliamentary Standing Committee had recently slammed the Government for the high level of effluents being pumped into the lake. The government had come under flak for not doing enough to save the ' exotic elegance ' of the Lake, on which the authorities claim to have spent Rs. 8,897.23 crore for de-weeding. Although much seems to have been done, I could see a large number of unwanted houses and houseboats in the lake, contributing to a high-level of pollution.
However, the Tourism Minister said that it was difficult to dislocate nearly one lakh people, who have been residing in the lake for decades. They form part of the lake and supply fresh vegetables worth several crores of rupees. 'I am a practical man', he said, and I know the consequences. The lake has shrunk in size considerably. But it continues to look majestic.
Encouraged by the heavy influx of Vaishnodevi pilgrims, the state government has drawn a comprehensive plan to diversity 'pilgrim' tourism. There are several shrines in the region, especially in Badarwah, Kishtwar, Poonch and Rajouri, which will be developed as part of the pilgrim tourism. People in the valley, the playground of saints and sofis, share a common culture and heritage. Last year, 60 lakh pilgrims visited Vaishnodevi.
Two nights stay at Pahalgam, in the company of pine trees, was quite pleasing. I could see ponywalls ferrying tourists and making brisk business. On an average, a ponywalla earns from Rs. 200 to Rs. 400 per day. During peak season, it is more. There are 1300 ponies in the mountain town. Added emphasis is being given to rural tourism, says Deputy General Manager, Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Development Corporation (JKTDC) He said residential houses are being converted into guest houses, to cater to the taste of tourists, especially the foreigners. Assistant Director Tourism said till June 9 last year, 87,440 tourists (excluding yatris) visited Pahalgam.
This year till the corresponding date, 1, 58,937 tourists, including 734 foreign tourists, visited Pahalgam.
Let's hope tourists continue to visit this land of love and beauty as they used to do before.
Tourist guide-cum-trekking programme at JIM Pahalgam
Department of Information and Public Relations, J& August 2, 2005
Srinagar, August 2(INF)- A weeklong Tourist Guides and Trekking Training Programme started at Jawahar Institute of Mountaineering and Winter Sports (JIM& WS) Pahalgam from August 1, 2005.
The training programme has been organized by the Tourism Department in collaboration with the JIM, Pahalgam for the benefit of local youth.
Assistant Director Tourism Pahalgam while inaugurating the programme said that the aim of the programme is to impart training to the local youth in various tourist related aspects including catering, guiding, mountaineering and trekking so as to promote professionalism and expose them to the latest skills of tourism trade.
Lectures would be delivered during the training programme by the experts of the tourism trade, besides putting them to practical training in the relevant subjects on tourism trade.
Principal of the Institute Col. Shekhawat who was present on the occasion informed that this programme has been organized here for the first time.
3.54 lakh pilgirms visit Amarnath cave in south Kashmir
PTI July 31, 2005
Over 3.54 lakh pilgrims have had 'darshan' of holy 'ice lingam' of Lord Shiva this year at Amarnath in south Kashmir Himalayas, official sources said.

A fresh batch of 1391 pilgrims left Jammu for Pahalgam, the base camp of Amarnath yatra today, they said.

"So far, 3.54 lakh pilgrims have had darshan of holy ice lingam of Lord Shiva at Amarnath till today," a spokesman of Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) told PTI.

"Last year, four lakh yatris have visited the holy cave shrine," he said adding that the yatra was heading towards creation of another record.

Today' s batch comprising 766 men, 172 women, 27 children and 426 sadhus left in fleet of 47 vehicles from the base camp of MAM Stadium here around five a.M., Yatra Secruity Cheif, SSP Alok Puri said.

The yatra is proceeding smoothly from both the routes, Pahalgan and Baltal, he said adding that accommodation and food are been made available to the pilgrims round the clock.

"Securtiy escorts are accompanying the yatra from Jammu to Pahalgam and there was no reports of any untoward incident reported from anywhere," he said.
`Chhari Mubarik` procession taken out
Outlookindia.com July 21, 2005
Amidst devotional chants, 'Chhari Mubarik,' the holy mace of Lord Shiva, was taken to Pahalgam base camp for 'bhoomi pujan' and 'dhawajrohan' (flag-hoisting) ceremonies on the auspicious occasion of 'vyas-purnima' today, marking the commencement of religious Yatra to Amarnath.

Mahant Deependera Giri, the custodian of Chhari Mubarik, saw off the mace being carried by a group of sadhus at Dashnami Akhara in Budshah Chowk for Pahalgam.

The departure of the Chhari was delayed by an hour because of the reported accidental firing in which a police officer and a civilian were killed and another officer was injured outside the Akhara building.

As per traditions, Chhari Mubarik will return to Dashnami Akhara this evening for other rituals, Mahant Giri said.

He said he himself will lead the Yatra to the holy cave after performing the 'Charri Pujan' on 'Nagpanchami' falling on August 10.

The Yatra commenced on June 21 from Baltal route while from traditional Pahalgam route it commenced from July 9.

Over two lakh pilgrims from all parts of the country have paid obeisance at the 3880-metre high cave shrine in south Kashmir Himalayas so far this year.
2.2 lakh Amarnath pilgrims visit holy cave in south Kashmir
Outlookindia.com July 21, 2005
As many as 2.20 lakh devotees visited the holy cave shrine of Lord Shiva at Amarnath in south Kashmir so far, even as a fresh batch of 3000 pilgrims left here today for Pahalgam, the base camp of the Yatra.

"The number of Amarnath pilgrims have already crossed two lakh mark. Till today, 2.20 lakh pilgrims had 'darshan' of holy ice lingam of Lord Shiva at Amarnath," a spokesman of Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) told PTI.

The Yatra is going on smoothly through both the routes, Pahalgam and Baltal, to the holy cave shrine of Amarnath, he said adding, accommodation and food facilities were being made available to the pilgrims round-the-clock.

Over 7000 pilgrims are visiting daily, he said and added that three lakh yatris had visited the cave shrine last year.

As many as 3000 pilgrims comprising 1990 men, 643 women, 85 children and 282 sadhus left from the base camp of MAM stadium here in a fleet of 111 vehicles at around 0545 hours IST today, SSP, Yatra Security, Alok Puri said.

"Full security escorts are accompanying the Yatra from Jammu to Pahalgam and there was no report of any untoward incident from anywhere," he said.
Survey for another road between Kargil and Pahalgam soon: CM
UNI July 21, 2005
Kargil: After announcing the construction of a tunnel at Zojila to make the Srinagar-Kargil road an all weather communication link, the Jammu and Kashmir government has decided to conduct a feasibility survey for the Tesuru-Pahalgam road.

Addressing a public meeting at Sankoo, about 40 km from here, Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed said a survey would be conducted to gauge the feasibility of a road between Tesuru and Pahalgam which would connect Kargil with Anantnag in South Kashmir.

He said the road would help the people of Kargil enhance their trade with the rest of the state.

He also assured that the Kargil-Zanaskar road would be improved.

Mr Sayeed said the feasibility report for the construction of a tunnel on the 435-km Srinagar-Leh highway would be prepared soon to make it an all-weather road.

The project would cost Rs 600 crore, he said, adding Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has already sanctioned the funds.

The Srinagar-Leh highway, at present, remains closed for the six winter months.
Amarnath pilgrimage via Pahalgam begins
IANS July 9, 2005
JAMMU: Under a clear sky and amid tight security, 4,000-odd devotees set off from here for the Hindu cave shrine of Amarnath in Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday, formally kicking off the annual pilgrimage.

Deputy chief minister Mangat Ram Sharma flagged off a convoy of 162 vehicles from the Maulana Azad Memorial Stadium. The pilgrims in the first batch, which will travel to the cave shrine at the height of 13,500 feet via the traditional route of Pahalgam in south Kashmir, included 602 women and 77 children.

While the journey to Amarnath from the shorter Baltal route had started earlier in the month, many pilgrims had waited long to travel via the traditional Pahalgam route in the belief that it was more holy. Moreover, the scenic beauty of Pahalgam, Chandanwari, Shesh Nag and other places en route is mesmerising.

'I visit the shrine every year through the traditional route, so I am doing it this year too,' Bhishmabar Dass Narang, a businessman from Punjab, who was present there told.

Comparing it with the Baltal route, he said 'tradition has its own values, and Lord Shiva would shower more blessings if we adhered to his original path'. Uncertainty over the start of the pilgrimage on Saturday receded with the clearance of landslide debris on the Jammu-Srinagar national highway Friday evening. The landslides were caused by heavy rains in the region.

'The highway was thrown open, and we could go ahead with our schedule,' Jammu Divisional Commissioner Braj Raj Sharma told. He along with other senior officers was present at the ceremony to flag off the first batch of the pilgrims.
Himalayan Air Safari covers Pahalgam
PTI July 04, 2005
Tourists can now enjoy an aerial view of world-famous scenic spots in Jammu and Kashmir, owing to an air safari package launched by the State Tourism Development Corporation here today.

The beautiful locals of Gulmarg, Pahalgam and peaks of Nun Kun feature in the service, launched to promote tourism.

In the inaugural 30-minute sortie,State Tourism Minister Ghulam Hassan Mir, Italian Ambassador Antonio Armellini, his wife, and Councillor in Italian Embassy Paolo Trichlo, Principal Secretary (Tourism) Anil Goswami and some tourists had an aerial view of several spots.

The Air Safari was conducted at 16,000 ft AMSL in Gund and Pahalgam valleys and at 23,000 ft AMSL for an aerial view of the Nun Kun peaks.

The service has been launched to showcase the natural beauty of the state besides including new tourist destinations developed by the government, Mir said.

To begin with, the Himalayan Air Safari has been started at a promotional rate by the Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Development Corporation and depending on the response the government intends to lease 10-15 seater private planes. At the moment, the available state infrastructure is being used for conducting the flights. The II-seater (mehiding crew) state plane is undertaking the Safari with eitht passengers. The American-made plane called Super King Air 350 is manufactured by Raytheon Aircraft and is capable of flying up to 35,000 ft AMSL.

The Air Safari comprises six sectors, including Srinagar-Gund-Sonamarg-Pahalgam-Srinagar. Srinagar-Nun-Kin peak-Srinagar. Srinagar Dal Lake, Wular Lake-Gulmarg-Srinagar, Srinagar-Gulmarg-Pir Panjal-Srinagar (All sectors with Rs 3,300 per passenger), Srinagar-Kargil-Srinagar (Rs 6,200 per passenger and Srinagar-Leh-Srinagar Rs 11,200 per passengers). The package includes airport transfer to and from the Tourist Reception Centre and in-flight refreshment.
Amarnath yatra: Pahalgam route will open on July 9
Rediff July 04, 2005
The traditional Pahalgam route for the annual pilgrimage to the Amarnath cave shrine in Kashmir will open on July 9, an official of the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board said in Srinagar on Monday.

The yatra from the Pahalgam route for registered pilgrims will begin on July 9, instead of July 6 due to inclement weather conditions.

"We conducted an aerial survey of the route up to the cave on Sunday and found that it was ready for the pilgrimage," Chief Executive Officer of SASB Arun Kumar told reporters in Srinagar.

The traditional Pahalgam route for the annual pilgrimage to the Amarnath cave shrine in Kashmir will open on July 9, an official of the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board said in Srinagar on Monday.

The yatra from the Pahalgam route for registered pilgrims will begin on July 9, instead of July 6 due to inclement weather conditions.

"We conducted an aerial survey of the route up to the cave on Sunday and found that it was ready for the pilgrimage," Chief Executive Officer of SASB Arun Kumar told reporters in Srinagar.

He said lack of adequate infrastructure along the route to the shrine and fresh snowfall in the area had compounded problems.

There are several stretches of glaciers, totalling around 5.5 km of the 46-km trek between Pahalgam base camp to the cave shrine, he said.

The SASB has asked the Jammu and Kashmir Bank to begin registration of pilgrims from July 9.

Kumar said six helicopters -- four run by SASB and two by the state government -- were ferrying at least 200 pilgrims from Srinagar and Baltal to the cave shrine daily for a darshan of the naturally-formed ice lingam inside the cave, situated at an altitude of 3,880 mt.

The state administration was providing electricity and water supply and steps have been taken to ensure conservation of the environment with use of pre-fabricated huts and bathrooms at several places including the cave shrine, Kumar said.
Mountaineers to clean Amarnath track
Greater Kashmir June 29, 2005
Srinagar, June 29: Jammu and Kashmir Mountaineering and Hiking Club has decided to mount cleaning expeditions on the Amarnath track towards the close of the yatra. This decision was taken in the Annual General Meeting of the Club.
The club had earlier undertaken similar expeditions in 2003 when about 100 bags of tins, bottles and other non-biodegradable garbage were brought down from the mountains. The expeditions were mounted in collaboration with the Indian Mountaineering Foundation.
For the current year's expeditions it has been decided to approach the Shrine Board for assistance. These cleaning expeditions could provide employment to the people in Pahalgam as well as Sonamarg. The Club has constituted a committee for implementing the project. Among other decisions it was decided to approach various educational institutions for imparting 'Environment Awareness' among young students through the members of the club. It is also proposed to introduce outbound activities like hiking, trekking, climbing and rock climbing among the youth.
Snow clearing operation on Pahalgam-Amarnath road on war footing
PTI June 29, 2005
Racing against time to meet the July 6 deadline for commencement of official yatra to Amarnath, snow clearing operation on Pahalgam-Amarnath road is going on war footing to make the 46-km track operational for the pilgrimage.

Work to clear the snow is being carried on war footing. We have pressed men and machinery into service to clear the route and by July six the snow will be cleared from the track, Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Minister Ghulam Hassan Mir said today.

Mir said administration was fully geared to receive the yatris and all arrangements including healthcare, security and lodging for yatris have been made for the pilgrims.

The minister said army, BSF and Jammu and Kashmir police jointly senitized the yatra route to ensure foolproof security for the pilgrims.

Deputy Commissioner, Anantnag and yatra officer Baseer Khan said the district administration has taken all steps to ensure sufficient stock of essentials, uninterrupted water and power supply during the yatra.

He said department of consumer affairs has already stocked 477 quintals of sugar, 5000 litres of kerosene oil and 250 LPG cylinders at Baltal base camp while health services have also been set up with a 15 bed hospital.

Besides a mobile ambulance will be provided to meet any medical emergency during the yatra, Khan said.

Meanwhile, officials said over 10,000 pilgrims have registered their names for the Amarnath yatra on the first day of registration on June 27. The registration will continue till July 6. Nearly 5 lakh pilgrims are expected to visit the shrine this year against 4 lakh last year.
Govt has no objection to copter services to Amarnath cave
UNI June 23, 2005
Srinagar, June 23
The Jammu and Kashmir Government has no objection in allowing helicopter services to the holy cave shrine of Amarnath, but no deviation of norms prescribed for such sensitive flights would be allowed, an official spokesman said today.

The state government has authorised the Civil Aviation Department to monitor the chopper services to the Amarnath cave for the safety of the pilgrims and the helicopters, keeping in view the Civil Aviation Regulations, flying norms and infrastructural facilities available for such a ''sensitive'' service, he said.

All private flying companies are required to pass all norms and formalities required under the law, the spokesman said.

'It is the prime responsibility of the government to ensure safety and comfort of pilgrims flying to the holy cave shrine in helicopters. The government will not allow any deviation of any norms prescribed for such sensitive flights,'' he added.

However, the spokesman said the state government had no objection in allowing the helicopters operation to the Amarnath Cave, subject to condition that safety of pilgrims and the choppers was ensured.

He also clarified that as the holy cave has limited airspace and hours of operation and also less number of helipads it warrants limited flying of helicopters.

The spokesman further said that once the helicopters enter the Gund and Sonamarg valley, they lose communication links with the Air Traffic Control (ATC) in Srinagar, causing air safety concerns. ''Unless the number of helicopters are restricted or safe regulation of air traffic procedure adhered to, the operation of many choppers at a time could be dangerous,'' he added.

At present, there are eight to 10 helicopters operating at a time between Baltal and the cave area which include those of the Army, the Air Force, the BSF, the state government, private companies such as Jagson, Himalayan Heli Skiing and the Jammu and Kashmir Tourist Development Corporation.

''The state government is keen on the safety of helicopters and ensure there is no untoward incident or any stroke accident, causing inconvenience to the pilgrims,'' the spokesman said.

He said everyone one must realise that helicopter operation to Amarnath was a serious air service unlike normal flights in plains.

This air service required utmost care as the cave helipad was at an altitude of 12,800 feet with very little scope for error. The Civil Aviation Department was not creating any hurdles in the chopper services, but only trying to ensure that everything related to the safety of pilgrims and helicopters was in place before full-fledged operations commenced to the Amarnath Cave, he added.

'A few days' delay aimed at ensuring foolproof safety to pilgrims and helicopters should not be judged as a matter of great concern, but the spirit behind the move needs to be appreciated,' the spokesman said.
Mahant Giriji announces Pooja schedule
Department of Information and Public Relations June 22, 2005
Mahant Deepender Giriji, Custodian of Holy Mace and Mahant of Dashnami Akhara, Srinagar. has announced the schedule regarding religious performance of this year's Shri Amarnathji Yatra.

According to the Mahant, the Chhari Mubarak Swami Amarnathji Yatra will start with traditional rituals 'Bhoomi-Pujan' and 'Flag hoisting' (Dhawajrohan) ceremonies to be performed at Pahalgam on 'Vyas-Purnima' falling on 21st July 2005. The Chhari-Mubarak shall return to Dashnami Akhara the same day. Puja shall also be performed at historic Martand temple Mattan.

After performing the Chhari-Pujan on 'Nag-Panchmi' falling on 10th August 2005, Mahant Giriji will lead the yatra to Holy Shrine to have darshan on 'Raksha Bandhan' on 19th August 2005.

According to Mahant Deepender Giriji, the Chhari Mubarak will leave for Shankracharya temple from Dashnami Akhara on 5th August 2005 at 7 a.m.while it will go for Sharika-Bhawani temple, Hariparvat, from Dashnami Akhara on 6th August 2005 at 7 .a.m. Besides, 'Chhari-Sthapana' and 'Dhwajarohan' ceremonies shall be performed at Dashnami Akhara on 8th August 2005 while Chhari Mubarak will commence its journey to Holy Cave from Dashnami Akhara on 15th August 2005. On the way to Pahalgam, Pujan will be performed at Sureshwar temple (behind Hotel Shangrila) Sonawar, Srinagar, Shiv temple, Pampore, Shiv temple, Bijbehara and 'Martand-Tirth' Mattan.

On 19th August 2005, Chhari Mubarak will proceed for Holy Cave for Poojan at 6 a.m from Panchtarni while from Panchtarni Chhari Mabarak will leave for Pahalgam.

On the concluding day of the yatra, i.e on 21st August 2005, 'Poojan' and 'Visarjan' ceremonies will performed on the bank river Lidder. Thereafter, traditional 'Kadi-Pakori' Bhandara will be organized for Sadhus. With this last ritual, annual pilgrimage of Swami Amarnathji shall culminate and Chhari Mubarak will return to its Abode at Srinagar.
Jagson Airlines` choppers to go on a pilgrimage
UNI June 17, 2005
NEW DELHI: Private carrier Jagson Airlines will provide helicopter service for pilgrims during the Amarnath yatra from June 21 to August 20, its Chairman, Mr Jagdish Gupta, said on Friday.

"We'll be flying 44 flights daily from Srinagar and Baltal to Amarnath," he said. The return fare from Srinagar is Rs 25,000 and Rs 10,500 from Baltal.

Jagson will use three Bell 407 helicopters on the routes. Each flying machine can carry four to five passengers at a time, depending on the weather.

The holy shrine is located at a height of nearly 12,500 feet above sea level, 141 km from Srinagar. Last year, over 3.5 lakh devotees went to pay obeisance there.

The base camp for the pilgrimage, Pahalgam, is 96 km from Srinagar. The pilgrimage from Baltal is less steep and shorter than the traditional route (via Pahalgam) to the cave shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva.

The pilgrimage leads devotees through monsoon rain-swollen streams and past a glacier-fed lake to the cave where they worship an ice stalagmite.
In Valley, houses wait for return of Pandits
MIR EHSAN , Indian Express June 13, 2005
MATTAN, JUNE 12: With more than two dozen migrant Hindu Pandit families set to return to this remote township for a festival at the historic Martand temple, questions remain on how memorable this homecoming would be.

The state government, with Central assistance, has constructed some two-dozen concrete flats in Mattan town on Anantnag-Pahalgam road, where 500 Hindu families used to live earlier. All but 20 Hindu families migrated soon after the insurgency started in Kashmir.

President of the Martand temple trust, Ashok Kumar Sidha, who returned recently after seven years of migration, says the comeback of migrant Hindus is fraught with problems. ''Tell me, are 18 flats sufficient for 500 Hindu families''' he says.

Flanked by migrant families on the temple lawns, Sidha argues the families cannot be relocated without considering other factors. ''Before shifting in these quarters, we have to think on many aspects. At least, we have to observe whether we can live here or not.''

Sidha, who is presently care-taker of the centuries-old Martand temple, says the Hindus can never return unless government fulfills some promises. ''For our return, we have already submitted a proposal to the government. Our return will only be possible if government concedes to our demands,'' he says.

Last week, CM Mufti Mohammad Sayeed visited the township and held discussions with the migrant families and insisted they settle in the quarters. ''Many among us are willing to return but first, the government should chalk out a plan how we can sustain in these flats after years of migration,'' says Avtar Krishan Mosa, a migrant. ''Unless an honorarium is fixed and jobs are provided, nobody will move to these flats.''

Close to Mattan police station, masons and labourers are working overtime to give finishing touches to the quarters for migrants. 'Families can move any time,'' says Ghulam Nabi, a local mason. ''We are waiting for the return of our neighbours,'' he says. ''Some 20 families never migrated and they live peacefully here. Those who migrated can return and share our joy, happiness and grief.''
Pilgrims have something else to look forward to
Express News Service June 7, 2005
Apart from the Amarnath Yatra, the J-K government is throwing open the pilgrimage of the Shiv Marg cave for the first time this summer.

Adjacent to the Amarnath shrine, the Shiv temple cave is 13 km away from Chandanwari, the second of the fourth whistle-stop en route the ancient cave, and entails a difficult climb. But officials say they have decked up the shrine for the devotees and removed snow to pave way for the walk through steep and slippery mountains.

''Yes, we are readying the cave shrine for devotees. We are sure that a large number of pilgrims en route the ancient shrine would make a stopover here too,' said a top government officer. He said the new cave would supplement the local trade and provide more avenues to locals, especially pony owners.

Discovered three years ago by a shepherd, Rafiq Bakerwal, who had accidentally trekked to the area while grazing sheep, Shiv Marg can be reached at by foot or pony ride through a treacherous mountain trek. From Chandanwari, it would take an adult pilgrim three to four hours, depending on the amount of snow. Officials said there is four to six feet of snow on the narrow pathway leading to the cave, but if fair weather prevails, more of it will melt and make the trek easy. Though the top area has not been sanitised fully today, the security will be in place before June 15, they said.

No registration for yatra en route Baltal
Rakesh Rocky , Express India June 7, 2005
Jammu, June 6: IT is official. The two-month-long Amarnath yatra via Baltal route starting from June 21 will be without any registration fee, but this sop will be restricted to armed forces, para-military forces, ex-servicemen and their families.

The July 45-day yatra via Pahalgam route will, however, be through registration though the authorities are yet to cement the date. A date is yet to be fixed for the registration of Amarnath yatra via Pahalgam either. Sources said these decisions will be taken at a meeting of the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board.

It's learnt that both the dates were decided at a meeting between the Governor and the chief minister two days back.

Sources said now there is no clash between the government and the SASB. The yatra, which will start on July 6 via Pahalgan route, will last 45 days and will conclude on Rakhi Purnima on August 19 as announced by the SASB.

Last year also after many hiccups, the yatra period was fixed for 45 days. The only difference this year will be that the yatra via Baltal route starting on June 21 will be of two-month duration.

Last year, although the official count of pilgrims wasn't high, the unofficial figure of pilgrims via the Baltal route was much higher. It was because many devotees had taken that route without any registration.

''The dates for registration for Amarnath yatra via Pahalgam route will be announced after a meeting to be called shortly,'' said Minister of State for Tourism Jugal Kishore.

Meanwhile, sources said SASB is making all out efforts to clear the Baltal route so that the yatra can begin on June 21 as announced by the Governor, Lt Gen S K Sinha (retd), also the chairman of the SASB. He has personally inspected the yatra route for two consecutive days. SASB has already hired its own labourers to clear the route.

Sources told The Indian Express that Baltal route was almost clear and the yatra will start from June 21.
Amarnath yatra to start from June 21
PTI June 4, 2005
Jammu and Kashmir government has agreed to start the two-month long Amarnath yatra from June 21 setting at rest the controversy over the duration of the annual pilgrimage.

The decision to this effect was taken at a meeting between Governor S K Sinha, who is also chairman of the Amarnath Shrine Board and Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed late last evening, an official spokesman said here today.

The Governor told reporters accompanying him to the snowy peaks in pictureseque Baltal enroute to the holy cave yesterday that the yatra would commence on June 21 for a period of two months this year and subsequent years for greater satisfaction of yatris and giving boost to economy.

The state government had earlier decided to restrict the yatra for one month in view of security situation.

The spokesman said several decisions with regard to the holding of the yatra were taken at the meeting including inter alia service yatra on Baltal-holy cave to commence from June 21.

Apart from servicemen and their families other yatries may also proceed to the holy cave on this route from June 21 without registration or advance booking, he said.

However, he said the yatra on both Baltal and Pahalgam routes with registration and advance booking will commence from July 6 till Raksha Bandan falling on August 19.

In the case of Pahalgam route, however, the yatra will be subject to clearance of snow on the track. The clearing of the Pahalgam route being longer and having more snow is not likely to be completed till early July, the spokesman said.

At Baltal, the Governor told reporters that he has sent a two month notice as required to the state government in April stating that the yatra should commence on June 21.

The Governor who trekked most part of the track to the holy cave took stock of the restoration works going on the route.

The route has been cleared upto Sangam and work was going on to clear the remaining portion of the track in another ten days.

Improvements to the track and facilities for yatris along the route will also be completed by the stipulated date, the Governor had told accompanying mediapersons yesterday.

About security for yatris, he said the security for Amarnath yatris was primarily a question of providing foolproof security arrangements from Baltal to holy cave and holy cave to Pahalgam.

Elsewhere in the state the security being provided to normal tourists and others without any extra effort was available to these yatris. There is no need for special security for Amarnath, the Governor said.
Pahalgam hydel project commissioned
GK NEWS SERVICE June 3, 2005
Srinagar, June 1: With the launching of ambitious plan for exploring maximum hydel potential, Jammu and Kashmir is fast joining the category of rich energy states, Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed said while dedicating the Pahalgam Mini Hydel Power Project to the people at Pahalgam today.
The Chief Minister said that by harnessing hydel power potential, the state would be on the threshold of exporting hydel power energy. He said that the state has 20000 MW hydel potential and the inclusion of various mega and micro power projects under the Prime Minister's historical JK Economic Package would give considerable fillip to indigenous power generation.
'It would help to realize the dream of self reliance in power sector and catapult growth and progress of Agriculture, Industries, IT, besides other economic activities,' he said.
He complimented Minister for Power Muhammad Sharief Niaz and his engineers and staff for completion of the project, which will provide 24 hours uninterrupted electricity to Pahalgam, the world famous health resort. The inconvenience which were being faced by tourists and yatris as a result of power shortage would be overcome by commissioning of this project, he said.
On this occasion, Deputy Chief Minister, Mangat Ram Sharma, Minister for Rural Development Peerzada Mohammad Sayed, Minister for Social Welfare Mula Ram, Minister for Power Mohammad Sharief Niaz, Minister for Agriculture Abdul Aziz Zargar, Minister of State for Home A. R. Veeri, Minister of State for Power Javid Mustafa Mir where present.
The Chief Minister emphasised that the state government would launch various new mega and mini projects catering the increase demand of the people especially living in far-flung areas. The projects include prestigious Baglihar and Sawalkote, he said the foundation stone of Pahalgam project was laid in 1985 but no progress was made till his government took over. He said that after realizing need and importance of such projects in our state, my government decided to restart the work and complete it within targeted period. He added that similar other mini projects will be completed at different identified localities within one to two years.
New Cave Shrine enroute Amarnath
PTI May 31, 2005
Set amidst rocky cliffs and pine trees, the sacred cave shrine of Lord Shiva in Chandanwari hills of south Kashmir is all set to re-define the history of annual Amarnath Yatra when pilgrims will throng this new shrine this year.

"Pilgrims will this year throng this new three-mouthed cave shrine of Lord Shiva, 14 kms from the holy cave shrine of Amarnath," Shri Amarnath Welfare Langar Committee's Sarvanandan said.

Sarvanandan, who has been undertaking welfare activities regarding provision for boarding and lodging facilities free of cost at cave shrine route, said "We will take the first batch of pilgrims to new shrine and also set up a langar (community kitchen).

A small foot track has been constructed by government up to the cave shrine but it is not enough. Amarnath Shrine Board should construct a road to the shrine which is just 4-5 kms from main road, he said.

Housed in a big cave, this shrine is on the threshold of re-establishing the fact that the Amarnath Shrine is over 5,000 years old.

The cave temple complex, surrounded by thick growth of birch trees, comprises three in-built caves dedicated to Lord Shiva in a nine feet area of white stones.

Located just above a tree line of the pictureseque landscape and sheltered by the golden leaves of birch trees, the main Shiva statue in black marble is two-feet high and is sculptured out of a big rock in the cave. The statue, which has a trident on one shoulder and a naga on the other side, has withstood the onslaught of time.

Besides on two sides of the statue, there are nearly a dozen small and big lingas which are affected by the weather.

However, the contents of the third inside cave continue to be shrouded in mystery due to the darkness inside it, said noted Shiv Scholar Dr B N Pandita, who, along with a shephered Haji Mohammad Rafique Bocken, had discovered it at a place called "Hapatgund" three years ago.

Bocken's son-in-law Gulam Qadir, while grazing his cattle, discovered the cave shrine and sent letters to state and central government officials, Pandita said.

He found that shaivaits could have built the cave temple centuries ago as part of "Rrajtarangini", the gateway to the ancient culture of kashmir.

According to the manuscript, there were a few religious places connected with Amarnath- the Bhrighu Patti ashram or Padahav (pahalgam), the Sathanav Padahav or Ashram (Chandanwari) and the Rajnopal van Ashram where Lord Rama and and Goddess Sita were believed to have stayed during their visit to Amarnath.
Measures to check Yatra pollution would affect Pahalgam beauty
ARSHAD HAMID, greaterkashmir.com May 25, 2005
Islamabad, May 24: The proposed measures to check the pollution at Yatra camp sites enroute the Amarnath cave this year would badly affect the pristine environment and destroy the sloppy topography of Pahalgam, world's famous tourist spot.
As per the project report prepared by the Shree Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) this year for prevention of pollution at the Yatra camps, a lot of denudation will take place in the name of checking pollution.
The project report, a copy of which is with Greater Kashmir, formulated to deal with various kinds of wastes coming from toilets, langars or otherwise generated at the camp sites says will endanger the flora and fauna of the area, besides limiting its options for converting in to heritage tourist spot.
The project report first of its kind prepared by SASB exclusively to deal with the handling of various kinds of wastes to check pollution aims at: disposal from toilets shall be made in the leach pits (earthen septic tanks), which will be covered by the RCC slabs; for wastes from langars at each camp site provision will be made for compost pits where all the degradable waste from langars will be put and covered with loose earth to check the emanation of foul smell. It is expected that before next year, the waste of the previous year (with or without addition of bacterial culture) would have turned in to the compost, which can be taken out and used for plantations and the pits used again for fresh composting. The non-bio-degradable wastes like polythene and plastics will be brought back every two days or so for recycling/ landfills.
Although the project while substantiating its move to check pollution clearly mentions that the heavy influx of devotees to the cave for past so many years in the absence of adequate toilets and waste disposal arrangements have resulted in the polluting the area and upset environmentalists.
'It clearly seems that while formulating the project opinion of environmentalists have not been sought as no consideration has been given to the ecological imbalance and damage likely to the flora and fauna in the area by the construction work,' says Manzoor Javid, Chairman of Society for Promotion of Environmental Awareness in Kashmir (SPEAK), while commenting on the project of SASB.
'Tackling pollution is good but that should not happen at the cost of plundering the natural settings,' he added.
The whole management to deal with the wastes as per project needs digging of pits, which the environmentalists and nature lovers fear would affect the area and its water table.
'For handling the wastes, the only option with them is to dug pits, which will de-shape the sloppy topography of the area and damage the fragile ecosystems present there.
Besides this the water table in the area is high, therefore the nitrogenous wastes will increase in water, resulting in its eutrofication, thereby putting the aquatic life of the area in danger also,' says Rasheeda Parveen, a Botany research scholar.
'Even the construction activities along the route will have impact on the bio diversity and wild animals,' she adds.
It may be recalled that last year about 400,000 devotees undertook pilgrimage, and this year about 3,000 prefab portable toilets will be constructed, and the whole expenditure for the waste management will incur a sum of more than Rs 105 lacs.
Sources in the SASB have disclosed that the project report was formulated without the consultation of Pahalgam Development Authority and Department of Tourism, active partners in the development of the area.
However, the only positive and encouraging point in the project is enforcement of ban on the use of plastics and simultaneous use of alternate containers made of jute, paper or cotton.
Amarnath pilgrimage from June 21, for two months
IANS May 19, 2005
Jammu, May 18 : The annual Hindu pilgrimage to the Amarnath cave shrine in Jammu and Kashmir will begin June 21 and go on for two months, Governor S.K. Sinha announced Wednesday.
The governor, who is also chairperson of the Amarnath Shrine Board, said pilgrims would get the best facilities, including prefabricated shelters, en route and at the shrine.
A 46 km trek from Pahalgam, 100 km from the summer capital Srinagar, gets the pilgrim to the Himalayan cave shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva at a height of 13,500 ft.
The state government has been resisting extending the pilgrimage beyond a month for security reasons.
The Mufti Mohammed Sayeed government had challenged the board's authority to unilaterally determine the period of the pilgrimage. The Jammu and Kashmir High Court ruled in favour of the board, but stated that the state government should be taken into confidence.
More than 150,000 pilgrims had visited the shrine last year. This year, the number is expected to be higher, the governor said.
Indian Army refuses to lift Kashmir trekking ban
Iftikhar Gilani, Daily Times May 9, 2005
NEW DELHI: While the Kashmir valley is readying to host some one million tourists this year, the Indian Army has refused to lift a ban on trekking. For centuries Kashmir has been touted as "trekkers' paradise'. All trekking routes are now controlled by the Indian security forces.
Inquiries show that there is no official ban on trekking and yet tourism authorities in Delhi and Srinagar throw up their hands in despair when foreigners approach for permission to go on the world-famous tracks like those spread between Pahalgam and Sonamarg, and Sonamarg to Kishensar and Vishensar.
According to the Srinagar-based English newspaper "Greater Kashmir," the trekking routes are not open for the last many years.
Travel agents say they get inquiries from tourists who want to go trekking but "security forces camped in the areas don't allow it".
Adventurers who want to proceed are often restricted by the security forces which ask them to get permission from the Srinagar Tourist Police. Police, however, says it has no powers to allow trekking.
"Our job is of tourist assistance, we don't have any such job," said Abdul Hamid, superintendent of police for tourism.
The newspaper quoted a police source as saying that trekking had been stopped because of army deployment in the areas. "They (army) have camps in the area; we can't order them to allow trekking, said a senior police official who asked not to be named.
Sources said some weeks ago the Kashmir government had taken up the issue during a meeting with the army. One of the suggestions was that trekking should be allowed on specific routes, the sources added.
Undeclared ban in trekkers' paradise
MAJID HYDERI, greaterkashmir.com May 6, 2005
'Troop deployment main hindrance'

Srinagar, May 6: Even as the government is busy wooing foreign tourists to Kashmir, an undeclared ban exists on trekking in the Valley.
The Valley has some of the world famous treks that attracted foreigners 15 years ago. 'We used to get lots of foreign tourists for it and I myself used to accompany the groups,' recalls Nazir Ahmed Bakshi, owner of Shiraz Travels.
Some of the famous treks in the Valley are in the mountainous belt spread between Pahalgam and Sonamarg, Sonamarg to Kishensar and Vishen Sar. 'These are appreciated as trekkers paradise,' Director General Tourism Muhammad Salim Beigh said, adding that most of the reputed tourism literature world over shows them as available for activity.
However, for the last many years the routes are not open. Travel agents say they get inquiries from tourists who want to go for trekking. However, security forces camped in the areas don't allow it.
'We don't have to offer them (tourists), they are ready for it. The only hindrance is permission,' the travel agents said.
Adventurers who want to proceed are often restricted by the security forces who ask them to get permission for it from Tourist Police here.
Police however says it has no powers to permit trekking. 'Our job is of tourist assistance, we don't have any such job,' Superintendent Police Tourism, Abdul Hamid, said.
Sources in police said that trekking has been 'banned' because of Army deployment in the areas. 'They (Army) have camps in the area we can't order them to permit trekking,' a senior police official said, pleading anonymity.
Sources said some weeks ago the government had taken up the issue during a high level meeting with the Army. 'One of the suggestions was that trekking permits should be given on specific routes,' the sources added.
'It must be given a restart,' they said.
River rafting in Pahalgam from May 10, 2005
greaterkashmir.com May 1, 2005
Srinagar: The Highland Excursions and CNE tours ' a leading tours and travels company ' will start river rafting in Pahalgam and Sonamarg from May 10, 2005.
In a statement here the company said that in view of the expected great tourist inflow to the valley this year, it has increased number of rafts in Pahalgam. The company has also decided to expand its area of operation in Sonamarg for rafting.
For the convenience of the tourists the company has decided to provide tented accommodation at both the places.
Meanwhile, the travel agents' society of Kashmir has elected its new body to ensure better functioning.

Chopper services to start in J and K for catering to tourists
Zee News April 27, 2005
Jammu, Apr 27: Helicopter services will be started in Jammu and Kashmir to cater to tourist inflow to various destinations in the state.

This was decided at a high-level meeting presided over by Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed here today to review the arrangements made by the Tourism Department for improvement of overall tourist infrastructure for ensuing tourist season.

The meeting decided that the Civil Aviation Department will be responsible for technical and quality management of helicopter services and Tourist Development Corporation (TDC) will be directly responsible for its operation.

The Chief Minister emphasised that men and machinery should be geared up to provide all kinds of facilities to visiting tourists in the coming season.

He asked the Tourism Department to develop a tourist village behind Nishat and Shalimar Garden area in Srinagar so that sufficient guest houses be available for tourists.

The Chief Minister also directed the Department to Work for opening of Aharbal for tourism purpose this year and create sufficient facilities in the area.

The meeting was informed that the government is planning to purchase centaur hotel and ITDC hotel at Gulmarg. Besides, process is on to identify the land available in urban tourist development authorities at Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Doodipathri, Patnitop and Sonamarg which can be earmarked for auction to private entrepreneurs for development.

Minister for Tourism Ghulam Hassan Mir and Minister of State for Tourism Jugal Kishore suggested that measures be taken to start site-seeing tourist bus service in the Valley during the summers.

Bureau Report
Chopper services to start in J and K for catering to tourists
Zee News April 27, 2005
Jammu, Apr 27: Helicopter services will be started in Jammu and Kashmir to cater to tourist inflow to various destinations in the state.

This was decided at a high-level meeting presided over by Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed here today to review the arrangements made by the Tourism Department for improvement of overall tourist infrastructure for ensuing tourist season.

The meeting decided that the Civil Aviation Department will be responsible for technical and quality management of helicopter services and Tourist Development Corporation (TDC) will be directly responsible for its operation.

The Chief Minister emphasised that men and machinery should be geared up to provide all kinds of facilities to visiting tourists in the coming season.

He asked the Tourism Department to develop a tourist village behind Nishat and Shalimar Garden area in Srinagar so that sufficient guest houses be available for tourists.

The Chief Minister also directed the Department to Work for opening of Aharbal for tourism purpose this year and create sufficient facilities in the area.

The meeting was informed that the government is planning to purchase centaur hotel and ITDC hotel at Gulmarg. Besides, process is on to identify the land available in urban tourist development authorities at Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Doodipathri, Patnitop and Sonamarg which can be earmarked for auction to private entrepreneurs for development.

Minister for Tourism Ghulam Hassan Mir and Minister of State for Tourism Jugal Kishore suggested that measures be taken to start site-seeing tourist bus service in the Valley during the summers.

Bureau Report
Tee time: Crowds throng Kashmir golf courses
NDTV.com Fayaz Bukhari April 15, 2005
Friday, April 15, 2005 (Srinagar):
The snow has melted, the sun is shining, and it's the best time to play golf in Kashmir.

It's been 15 years since the Pahalgam Golf Course was used, thanks to militancy and security problems. But now things appear to be looking up, with an aggressive tourism policy.

A group of golfers has come to Pahalgam all the way from the UAE, and it's a trip they consider well worth the effort.

Paradise on Earth

"The golf course here is fantastic, and the scenic beauty is amazing. We are very impressed. But at the same time maintenance of the golf course needs some more work," said Sudesh Agarwal, Chairman, Indian Golfers Association, Sharjah.

By organizing golf trips, the government is making efforts to attract elite tourists back to Kashmir. These tourists abandoned the place with the outbreak of militancy.

However, all the guests agree that things were now more peaceful.

"It is a very beautiful place, and the situation is very different from what we saw on TV a few days back. It is definitely a pleasant and safe trip, we have not seen anything t make us feel insecure," said Ali Bagash, a UAE-based golfer.

Fruitful efforts

It's clear that last year's aggressive marketing is paying dividends, as large numbers of foreign and domestic golfers are making their way to Kashmir.

In-fact, the Royal Springs Golf Course is all set to host the MPs golf tournament later this year.

"In August we will have a golfers group coming through JKTDC. They have said that 80 foreign golfers and many from the country will come and play," said Ghalib Mohiddin, Secretary, Royal Spring Golf Course.

The effort will clearly go a long way in bringing back the glorious days of Kashmiri tourism.
Train to Udhampur brings the Kashmir Valley closer
The Hindu Apr 14, 2005
UDHAMPUR (JAMMU AND KASHMIR): The Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, on Wednesday took yet another step towards bridging the gap between the Kashmir Valley and the rest of the country by dedicating to the nation the 54.85-km-long Jammu-Udhampur rail line and flagging off the tri-weekly Uttar Sampark Kranti Express that will run between Udhampur and New Delhi.

Though it has taken over two decades to complete the Rs. 515-crore rail line that will pass through a highly treacherous hilly terrain, Dr. Singh assured the State people that the entire 342-km rail line from Jammu to Baramulla via Udhampur, Katra, Qazigund and Srinagar would be completed by 2007. "Money will be not be an issue for this project and we have already sanctioned Rs. 1,000 crores in this year's Railway Budget," he said.

"The highly-ambitious project will greatly benefit the people of Jammu and Kashmir. It will not only give a cheaper travel option to [the] people, but also prove to be a major boost for the tourism sector. It will also give a fillip to the State's economy," he said, adding that he hoped the project would help the Government's efforts to ensure speedy and all-round development of the State.

Terming the project an engineering marvel, Dr. Singh said the railway engineers were ready to face the challenge of constructing the 142-km Katra-Qazigund line ' the most difficult section of the entire project which passes through the Pir Panjal ranges.

"On this route," he said, "a 90-km stretch will be covered via tunnels, with one tunnel being almost 12-km long, while there will be a 1.5-km-long bridge 400 metres over the Chenab." The Railway Ministry had taken up the project of laying the 212-km Jammu-Pathankot-Jallandhar double line that would cost over Rs. 400 crores.

Lalu's assurance

The Railway Minister, Lalu Prasad, said two projects would provide employment to the local youth. A sleeper-manufacturing factory would be opened at Kathua The Jammu and Kashmir Governor, Lt.Gen. (retd.) S.K. Sinha, and the Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, were also present.
Preparations begin for Amarnath pilgrimage
Indo-Asian News Service Mar 2, 2005
Preparations have begun for the Amarnath pilgrimage in the Himalayan heights of Jammu and Kashmir in the hope that everything would be in place before the arduous trek in July, which attracts 150,000 pilgrims from all over the country.

State Governor Lt Gen SK Sinha, who is also chairperson of the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board that looks after the cave shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva, said on Tuesday: "Time is trickling out and many things have to be taken up to ensure a safe and comfortable pilgrimage."

Speaking after a performance by sarod maestro Amjad Ali Khan, the governor added that the 45-day pilgrimage had proceeded incident free for the second consecutive time last year.

The board, which manages the affairs of the shrine situated at a height of 13,500 ft, has also decided to raise Rs 300 million to improve facilities. It is proposed to build shelter sheds and develop sanitation facilities.

"Double bed prefabricated sheds for 13,000 pilgrims, 1,650 pollution free toilets and 650 bathrooms at all points, including base camps, are proposed to be raised," the governor said.
So far 550 toilets and 250 bathrooms have been put up. Sulabh International would be consulted to construct environment-friendly toilets and bathroom facilities.

The task of upgrading facilities would be undertaken with the onset of spring in Kashmir, currently under a thick blanket of white snow.

One of the most difficult pilgrimages in the country, the journey to Amarnath starts from the winter capital Jammu. The actual 46-km trek begins from the base camp in Pahalgam in the Kashmir Valley, 100 km from the summer capital of Srinagar.

Originally, the pilgrimage started from Srinagar. The practice was discontinued following the outbreak of militancy in 1990.
First Jammu-Udhampur train to start March 25
By Iftikhar Gilani, Daily Times Feb 18, 2005
NEW DELHI: Indian Railway Minister Nitish Kumar announced in the Lok Sabha on Friday the completion of the Jammu-Udhampur rail line and that the first train will start working on the 54-km rail line on March 25. This signals the completion of the first phase of the mega project and officials are optimistic that trains will go beyond Baramulla after 2007 to Muzaffarabad and Abbotabad, as was originally proposed almost a century ago by the-then Dogra Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, who had conceived the project.

Mr Kumar also presented the Rs 260 billion interim railway budget for the first four months of the year. Members of the Indian establishment believe the lack of a railway link between New Delhi and Kashmir has significantly contributed to the alienation of the Kashmiri people.

The work on the 54-km rail line was started in 1983 on the initiative of the then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Till 1998, only a 17-km long rail track from Jammu to Bajalta village had been completed in 15 years.

The Jammu-Udhampur section has an embankment that is 42 metres high, which is the highest on the railways. Its ballast-less tracks have been laid for the first time in the country and reinforced hollow concrete piers have been constructed on all viaducts and bridges keeping in mind the seismological activity of the area, a railways official said.

After the Jammu-Udhampur section becomes operational on March 25 it will be followed by a 142-km Katra-Quazigund section that is supposed to be completed in 2005 and further up to Baramulla by India's Independence Day in 2007. The total length of the line will be about 290 km.

Officials here believe the Rs 35 billion Kashmir rail link is perhaps the most important project taken up by the railways. The government has promised to roll the first train into the Kashmir Valley by 2007.
Board prepares for pilgrim rush to Amarnath
Tribune News Service Feb 16, 2005
The Shri Amarnath Shrine Board is gearing up to receive half a million pilgrims during this year's annual pilgrimage to the Himalayan cave shrine in Jammu and Kashmir.

The SASB has chalked out broad outline for upgrading facilities and developing infrastructure at the base camps of Pahalgam and Baltal besides various points en route the cave shrine.

The Governor, Lt Gen (Retd) S.K. Sinha, who heads the board, has called for coordinated efforts to make the stay and journey of pilgrims, coming from various parts of the country, comfortable. He said the yatra symbolised the uniqueness of kashmir culture and had potential to give a tremendous boost to the local economy. Last year four lakh pilgrims had arrived which was the highest number of yatris paying obeisance at the shrine during the two-month pilgrimage.

On the environmental front, the traditional deep trench latrines put up at the base camps and other yatra points had been a major cause of pollution. These would be replaced by prefab toilets with adequate water supply and use of friendly bacteria for faster degradation of all waste into manure.

The SASB decided to put up 2100 pollution free toilets and 650 bathrooms at all the points including base camps. Of these 550 toilets and 250 bathrooms had already been put up.

The expertise of Sulabh International will also be utilised. To raise funds for upgrading infrastructure and various facilities on the pilgrimage route, a resource committee has been constituted with Mr Raghu Modi as its chairman for launching an international campaign.
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