Wake up call – River Rafting in Pahalgam turns a sour experience

With the authorities squabbling on permits and ecology, etc., the most important aspect of River Rafting in Lidder in Pahalgam – SAFETY has kind of taken a back seat. And it came out glaringly yesterday when a group of tourists could not maintain control of their raft, and while many got injured, one of the rourists actually succumbed to her injuries (see the detailed news item below).
A very expensive lesson learnt? Well, if its even a lesson learnt. Hopefully PDA/Tourism Department would streamline how they select travel agencies and more importantly their personnel. Even more important is designation of certain streches of river from Type 1 to 6 depending upon the difficulty level. Tourists can then cautiously choose where they want to raft, as well as sign on a non-liability paper (which is a norm through out the world).
This incident is a setback, but hopefully it will not reverse the trend and people will continue to enthusiastically enjoy the thrill of rafting in Pahalgam waters. And hats off to the local good samaritans who saved seven of the group in this incident.

Noteworthy is that this is the first casualty since the rafting was introduced in Lidder during the past three years.

Hyderabad tourist drowns while rafting in Kashmir
May 29 Merinews – A woman tourist from Hyderabad lost her life as she, along with her mates, lost control while rafting in a Kashmir river. The seven other injured are being treated at the district hospital, Anantnag.
RECREATION TURNED sour for a bunch of tourists as one of them drowned while rafting in the Lidder River near village Yanner, Pahalgam in Kashmir. The deceased, identified as Sharda, wife of a Nivasan from Hyderabad, lost her life as she could not be rescued. The tourists were from Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh.
The tourist were rafting in the river this morning (May 29) when they met with the mishap. Lidder is a swift-flowing river, ideal for rafting.
Battling desperately for their lives, the revellers were severely injured after the boat struck some boulders in the gushing river. Some local people who happened to see them, rescued the trapped tourists and shifted them to a nearby hospital with the assistance of the police.
Out of the group of eight, a woman, identified as Sharda, wife of Nivasan from Hyderabad, however, succumbed to her injuries at the district hospital, Anantnag. The other injured are being treated at the hospital.

Amarnath Yatra Registration 2008

Shri Amarnath Ji Yatra 2008 Registration Form

Shri Amarnath Ji Yatra 2008 Duplicate Receipt Generation 

JK Bank Global Help Desk Contact Numbers

For 2008, a registration fee of Rs 15 has been fixed while Rs 24 is charged by way of an insurance policy to the pilgrims.

Name, Age, Address, Blood Group – undertaking that you are physically fit to undertake trek at 14000 feet altitude
For credit card verification, the billing address as it appears on your credit card statement
Pay By Credit Card [ Diners Club Card/ American Express/ JCB card/ Visa ] [Need verification number]
Pay Using Your Internet Enabled Bank Account
Pay by PayMate(Mobile payment)

With the annual Amarnath yatra set to commence from June 18, registration of devotees has started across the country.

Devotees can register themselves at 80 different branches of Jammu and Kashmir Bank across the country. Registration would end on July 13.

A total quota of 28,6680 pilgrims would be registered across the country by the bank branches.

While 9000 pilgrims would be registered in Jammu, 1200 will be registered in Srinagar, 720 in Kathua, 480 in Rajouri, 480 in Poonch and 600 in Udhampur.

Here is the list of Jammu and Kashmir Bank branches where yatris can register

Andhra Pradesh – Hyderabad – Pather Ghatti, J.N.Road

Bihar – Patna – Phulwari Sharief

Chandigarh – Sector 17

Delhi – Azadpur; Chandni Chowk; Naraina; Navin Shadara; Okhla; Rohini; South Extenison; Sarita Vihar; Vasant Vihar

Goa – Panaji

Gujarat – Ahmedabad; Baroda (Lal Bagh); Surat

Haryana – Ambala Cantt; Gurgaon; Hissar; Karnal; Panipat;Rohtak

Himachal Pradesh – Dharmshala; Kullu; Shimla

Karnataka – Bangalore – SPJ Road; Infantry Road; Mysore

Kerala – Kochi; Ernakulam; Thriuvananthapuram

Maharashtra – Mumbai; Andheri (East); Kalbadevi, Mira Road, Vashi; Aurangabad; Nagpur; Pune

Madhya Pradesh – Bhopal; Indore

Punjab – Amritsar – Shastri Market; Majith Mandi; Batala; Bathinda; Ferozepur; Jalandhar; Ludhiana; Khanna; Moga; Mohali; Mandi Gobind Garh; Mansa; Pathankot; Phagwara

Rajasthan – Jaipur

Tamil Nadu – Chennai – Mount Road; Parrys

Uttar Pradesh – Agra; Aligarh; Allahabad; Bhadoni; Greater Noida; Kanpur; Lucknow; Meerut; Muradabad; Noida; Varanasi

West Bengal – Kolkata- R.N. Mukherji Road, Mullick Bazar

Jammu and Kashmir – Jammu – TRC Extension Counter; Rajori Jawahar Nagar ; Poonch – Main Branch; Kathua-Main Branch; Udhampur-Shakti Nagar ; Doda-Pul Doda and Srinagar TRC Extension Counter.

For the past few years now, JK Bank is playing a crucial role in ensuring smooth conduct of yatra. No pilgrim is allowed to proceed for the yatra without proper registration. After it was made mandatory for the yatris visiting Amarnath cave to register themselves before entering into the State, JK Bank came forward to bail the State government out of crisis. While upholding its tradition of coming to the aid of the people, the bank, since 2002, has been shouldering the responsibility to register yatris throughout the country at its designated branches. This has won laurels for the bank from the yatris for smooth and satisfactory registration service rendered to them through the bank branches.¼br />  

No Amarnath ‘darshan’ before June 18 – lingam, 14 to 16 feet formed this year

News – The Telegraph, Calcutta: Srinagar, May 22: Planning to take off on a soul-cleansing journey to Amarnath within the next few days? Tarry a while.

The Jammu and Kashmir government has deferred the official date of the yearly pilgrimage as it wants to steer clear of any controversy over early melting of the Shiva lingam.

The two-month yatra will now officially start from June 18, authorities said, adding that the administration has banned any movement of pilgrims to the cave shrine ahead of that date.

“Yes, we have imposed Section 144 to prevent any pilgrim visiting the cave before the said date and we are fully implementing it,” Kashmir divisional commissioner Mehboob Iqbal said.

“We are doing so at the recommendation of the (Amarnath) shrine board.”

Official sources said police teams deployed at both the Baltal and Pahalgam routes to the cave were turning back pilgrims.

Over the years it had become a routine that the unofficial yatra would commence a month ahead of the formal opening, with the full backing of shrine board officials.

Last year, devotees were disappointed to find that the lingam had melted even before the official yatra commenced.

In 2006, the board was mired in another controversy after allegations that an artificial lingam had been placed to keep the pilgrimage going after the original lingam had completely melted.

“The board does not want any controversy this time, the reason the unofficial yatra is not taking place this year,” a source in the board said.

Reasons cited for the early melting have ranged from increase in the cave temperature because of the duration of the pilgrimage, hugging of the lingam by devotees to burning of incense sticks within the cave.

Board chief executive officer Arun Kumar, however, said there was no scientific evidence to prove that the lingam melts because of the long pilgrimage period.

“We have urged the government in the past also to prevent any unofficial yatra. This time we are happy that they are properly implementing it.”

Kumar said there had been reports of pilgrims going too close to the lingam last year and even hugging it. “This will not happen this year as we have erected a 53-foot-long and nine-foot-high iron fence around the lingam.” He added that a perfect lingam, measuring 14 to 16 feet, had formed this year.

Board sources said they were expecting around five lakh pilgrims, around two lakh more than last year.

Amarnath pilgrims can stay in Pahalgam hotels

In a decision of great significance to tourists and locals alike, the authorities agreed to let tourists and Amarnath Yatris stay in Pahalgam area hotels.

News item: Srinagar: The Amarnth pilgrims will be totally free to stay in private hotels at Pahalgam during the two-month-long yatra, starting from June 18, Chief Executive Officer(CEO), Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) Arun Kumar said today.

Announcing the decision at a joint meeting of various departments and representatives of hoteliers, he said the yatris would be free to decide whether they wished to stay in hotels or in the Nunwan camp. The hoteliers and other traders were protesting that their business was affected when the base camp was shifted to Nunwan.
He said it has been decided to regulate tourist and pilgrim movements to Pahalgam and to the base camp of the yatra at Nunwan.

The Serbal security check post would also be relocated near Nunwan and the usual tourist traffic diverted to Pahalgam via a circuit road. Dr Kumar said the new plan of action was revealed under which a booth would be established near the check point to serve as an information counter regarding availability of accommodation in the picturesque valley for desirous pilgrims. The CEO said with this measure, tourists from outside could visit Pahalgam even during the yatra period without any obstacles. The measure, he said, would boost the occupancy of hotels even when schools reopen in the rest of the country after the summer vacations. ”’We want pilgrims to stay anywhere they like. In fact, the Shrine Board is not averse to shifting of the Nunwan base camp to its traditional and ancient location of Sadhu Paraw, ahead of Pahalgam that will be beneficial for all, the hoteliers, craft dealers and local traders,” Dr Kumar said.