Amarnath: SC panel to study issues of pilgrims

The growing deaths of Amarnath pilgrims on Friday prompted the Supreme Court to appoint a high-powered committee comprising top officials from the centre as well as Jammu and Kashmir government to suggest measures to prevent such incidents and to provide basic amenities to the people without causing any harm to the environment during the annual affair.

“It is not a joke for us. Everyday some members (pilgrims) or the others are dying. We want a committee of some competent persons who can look into the issue. We want a permanent solution (of the problem),” a bench of Justices B S Chauhan and Swatanter Kumar said.

Taking suo motu note of the reports of deaths, the bench said, “Lakhs of people go there every year. There are innumerable deaths. Passages are very narrow and people fall down and die.”

At least 85 people were reported to have died during the pilgrimage this year. The court was also concerned about the absolute lack of basic amenities for the pilgrims on their way to the Amarnath cave shrine.

“It is glacier out there….and there is not a single toilet. There have been deaths on the way,” the bench said. Noting that health and other facilities were lacking to a large extent, the court said the high-powered committee would pass directions to keep interest of pilgrims and issue of environment protection in mind.

The committee would consist of, among others, secretaries of the Ministry of Environment and Forest, Home Affairs, Health and Child Welfare and the chief secretary of Jammu and Kashmir government.

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