Shri Amarnathji Yatra-2009
Pahalgam-Panchtarni Heli-Service Inaugurated
Pahalgam, July 22 – The helicopter service for Shri Amarnathji pilgrims commenced between Pahalgam-Panchtarni with the Minister for Tourism and Culture, Mr. Nawang Rigzin Jora flagging-off the inaugural sortie from Pahalgam this morning. With this, as approved by the Chairman, Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir), Mr. N. N. Vohra, the helicopter services formally started by Pawan Hans Pvt. Ltd. on the traditional route today morning.
The Minister of State for Tourism and Housing and Urban Development, Mr. Nasir Aslam Wani, Principal Secretary to the Governor and Chief Executive Officer of the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board, Mr. B. B. Vyas, Mr. Bhavesh Kumar Singh, CVO of Pawan Hans, Mr. Sanjeev Takru, GM Operations of Pawan Hans, Deputy Commissioner, Anantnag, Sheikh Mushtaq Ahmad, Senior Superintendent of Police, Anantnag, Chief Executive Officer of the Pahalgam Development Authority and representatives of the local associations of hotels, travel trade, tentwalas and prominent citizens were present on the occasion.
The Ministers and the Chief Executive Officer of the Board interacted with the representatives of the travel trade, who thanked the Shrine Board authorities and the State Government for starting Pahalgam-Pachtarni helicopter service on the traditional Yatra route. They said that apart from satisfying the spiritual urge of the Yatris, the new service will give a big boost to tourism, the mainstay of the State economy. The CEO reiterated that the Board recognises that the economic interests of the local stakeholders were central to the successful conduct of the Yatra.
Later, Mr. Jora, Mr. Wani and Mr. Vyas visited Panchtarni and took stock of the arrangements already put in place in view of the relocation of the helipad from the Holy Cave to Panchtarni.
The helicopter services between Baltal and Holy Cave have also been rescheduled with effect from today morning; the heli-services from Baltal will also now land at Panchtarni. Stating this, the CEO of the SASB, Mr. Vyas reiterated that this decision has been taken by the SASB in order to maintain the spiritual ambience of the Holy Cave and to address the repeated complaints that the helicopter movements, close to the Cave, impacted on the longevity of the Holy Ice Lingam. He further stated that the relocation of the helipad away from the Sanctum Sanctorum will substantially reduce any possible impact on the fragile ecology of the Holy Cave area as a result of exhaust fumes and vibrations arising from the helicopter operations. He further added that the new location has been finalized to ensure the complete safety of the Camp at the Holy Cave and of the pilgrims walking on the tracks to the revered Shrine, keeping in mind that a recent helicopter accident near the Lower Camp had resulted in the death of a lady pilgrim who was on her way to the Shrine.
The CEO said that it has also been decided to include a heli-Parikrama of the Holy Sheshnag for the air-borne devotees, as an important element of the new helicopter service on the traditional route. In the meantime, Pawan Hans Pvt. Ltd., who are operating the helicopter service on the traditional route, have announced an inaugural reduction in fare from Rs. 12,000 per person (round trip) to Rs. 10,000 per pilgrim for first five days after the commencement of the new service, Mr. Vyas said. He stated that the Board has also directed the helicopter operators on both the routes to ensure that the senior citizens, the old and infirm, and physically handicapped persons are given preference and are allowed to travel in the first few sorties every morning so that they can, other things being equal, return to Baltal and Pahalgam by the same evening.
Meanwhile, a Spokesperson of the Shrine Board said that 4637 Yatris performed darshan of the Holy Cave of Shri Amarnathji on Tuesday. He stated that 2138 pilgrims left from the Baltal Base Camp and 1347 from the Nunwan Base Camp this morning on their journey to the Holy Cave Shrine. He added that another batch of 727 Yatris left from Jammu to the Pahalgam and Baltal Base Camps today.
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