Puri Shankaracharya pulls up Shrine Board, J&K govt

Sixty-seven Amarnath pilgrims died in just 17 days of yatra

Puri Shankaracharya on Thursday expressed concern over the rising number of deaths of Amarnath pilgrims and alleged there was no co-operation between Jammu and Kashmir government and Shri Amarnath Shrine Board on the management of yatra and medical services.

The death of 67 Amarnath pilgrims, mostly due to cardiac arrest, in just 17 days of the yatra to the holy cave in south Kashmir Himalayas has left the board managing the pilgrimage worried and it has asked authorities to address all health-related issues. Last year, 105 persons died during the 45-day yatra due to natural
causes.

Cardiac arrest caused by rarefied oxygen at high altitude has been one of the most common natural causes of death among the pilgrims.

Officials of the state health department, which is running dozens of medical camps along the twin yatra routes, said in many cases the pilgrims were found to be in possession of fake fitness certificates.

“We have seen cases where some people are suffering from diabetes and respiratory problems. This is not a place for them to come but we cannot stop them as they come with fitness certificates issued by medical practitioners,” an official of the health department said.

Blame game on

But the Shankaracharya, Swami Adhokshjanand Tirtha, who concluded the eight-day long visit of Kashmir Valley and pilgrimage to Amarnath shrine, largely seemed unsatisfied with the arrangements to deal with the problems taking place at the yatra.

He said, “The Board and J&K government are entering into the blame game over deaths – it is very serious.”

“Yatra is going on for years – spot, which are critical in terms of less oxygen and dangerous for health of pilgrims are identified -- but no medical emergencies are put in place in these crucial areas resulting in deaths”, he said.

Board officials are just doing their duties by collecting the bodies of pilgrims – there is urgent need to put in place the medical emergency kits pertaining to critical ailments of heart attacks and high altitude sickness– it is black spot on Board, the Puri Seer said.

During my journey to the shrine, I have seen very poor management of yatra and cleanness and medical aid, he said.

“There is an urgent need for the government and Board to put in place full medical emergency setup in order to stop this vicious cycle of deaths of Amarnath pilgrims,” he added.

Governor N N Vohra has already convened two emergency meetings on pilgrim deaths since the 39-day annual pilgrimage to the shrine housing the naturally formed iceshiv lingam commenced on June 25 from the twin tracks of Pahalgam in Anantnag and Baltal in Ganderbal.

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