No Helicopter Service to Holy Cave of
Shri Amarnathji from July 22.
Shri Amarnathji Helipad Relocated to Panchtarni
Srinagar, July 14 – In furtherance of the decision taken by the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB), Governor, Mr. N. N. Vohra, today approved the relocation of helipad from the Holy Cave Shrine of Shri Amarnathji to Panchtarni, the forward Base Camp on the traditional Pahalgam route.
Shri B. B. Vyas, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Shrine Board, stated that the helicopter service shall now operate on the Baltal-Panchtarni sector with effect from July 22, 2009, and emphasized that there shall be no service to the Holy Cave for the remainder period of the current year’s Yatra.
Henceforth, Shri Vyas stated, the existing helipads near the Holy Cave shall be used only in exigencies such as evacuation of ailing pilgrims and rescue, as and when required, as well as for any other emergent and extra-ordinary landing, in rare cases, with the approval of the Governor, who is Chairman of the Board.
In a significant decision taken at the 16th Board Meeting, the SASB had decided to relocate the helipads from the Holy Cave in order to maintain the spiritual ambience of the Cave periphery and to meet the Yatris’ perception that the helicopter movement, close to the Cave, impacted on the longevity of the Holy Ice Lingam. Also, environmentalists had averred that the exhaust fumes, vibrations and sound waves arising from the helicopter operations could adversely impact on the fragile ecology of these snow covered mountain ranges.
The Board had desired to shift the helicopter operations from the Holy Cave to Panchtarni as early as possible during the on-going Shri Amarnathji Yatra-2009. However, the helicopter service operators felt that as a good number of the pilgrims who had made advance bookings were of advanced ages and, as such, adequate time would be required to inform all such persons about the relocation of the helipad from the Holy Cave to Panchtarni. Keeping the aforesaid concern in view, the Board has informed both the helicopter service providers, M/S Himalayan Heli Services (Pvt.) Ltd. and M/S Deccan Charters Ltd., that from Wednesday, 22nd July, 2009, all services will operate between Baltal and Panchtarni. Thus, there shall be no service to the Holy Cave after the last flight on Tuesday the 21st July, 2009.
The Board has further asked the helicopter operators to ensure that in the remaining seven days i.e. from 14th to 21st July, the required action is taken to suitably advise and inform all those who have made advance booking for any date after 21st July, 2009, about the change in the location of the helipad from the Holy Cave to Panchtarni and consequential changes in the schedule of helicopter operations. The Board has also observed that, considering the increased turn around time as a result of the change in the landing site/helipad, the helicopter service providers will provide adequate choice and flexibility to the aforesaid passengers to either change the date of their travel or cancel their earlier bookings, against full reimbursement of the fare, as the case may be.
Meanwhile, the Shrine Board has also decided that, for the Yatra 2010 and onwards the helicopter services shall only be to and from Panchtarni. As such, all the intending helicopter service providers will be advised to bid accordingly, as soon as the tendering process is initiated by the Shrine Board, for this purpose.
Shri Vyas observed that Panchtarni has adequate space for landing several helicopters at a time and, in the past years, bigger machines like MI-17 have also operated from this area. It was further stated that “the SASB is also contemplating to allow a helicopter service on Pahalgam-Panchtarni sector, keeping in view the demands received from Yatris and the tour and travel operators of Pahalgam”. Such a service will enable the pilgrims who are unable to walk on this arduous track to fly over the traditional route and have darshan of Sheshnag and Mahagunas Top.
The Board’s Spokesman stated that the decision with regard to the relocation of the helipad from the Holy Cave was taken after Shri B. B. Vyas, Chief Executive Officer of the Shrine Board, held a series of meetings with the service providers. Referring to the recent unfortunate accident in the Holy Cave Lower Camp area, the Spokesman stressed the importance of having an adequate number of helipads in the Yatra area for evacuating those injured in accidents, those who take seriously ill etc and for launching rescue operations in exigencies, keeping in view the difficult terrain and fast changing weather conditions in the high altitude Himalayan region. It was noted that the Board had organized seven rescue operations from Sheshnag, Panchtarni, Holy Cave and Brarimarg and saved several precious lives during the ongoing Yatra.
Meanwhile, 9845 Yatris performed darshan at the Holy Cave Shrine of Shri Amarnathji on Monday. While around 1400 pilgrims left from the Baltal Base Camp and 3600 from the Nunwan Base Camp this morning on their journey to the Holy Cave Shrine, another batch of 1699 Yatris left from Jammu to the Pahalgam and Baltal Base Camps today.
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