First batch of Amarnath pilgrims to leave tomorrow

First batch of Amarnath pilgrims to leave tomorrow

Sadhus wait in a queue for the registration for Amarnath Yatra, which commences on Wednesday, in Jammu on Tuesday. PTI

Amid multi-tier security cover, the first batch of pilgrims for the annual Amarnath Yatra will leave from Jammu's Bhagwati Nagar base camp on Wednesday.

The pilgrims, including sadhus, have started arriving in Jammu from various parts of the country.

The first batch will leave for Baltal base camp in Ganderbal during the early Wednesday hours and later in the day will reach Pahalgam base camp in Kashmir's Anantnag district in a fleet of vehicles under tight security, officials said.

The pilgrims will start their onward journey to the 3,880-metre high cave shrine by foot, on Thursday, marking the commencement of the pilgrimage— which is scheduled to conclude on August 26 coinciding with the festival of 'Raksha Bandhan'.

S D Singh Jamwal, Inspector General of Police, Jammu, said: "All arrangements are in place to ensure smooth and peaceful pilgrimage, which is a symbol of brotherhood and communal harmony."

He said security forces are fully alert and they have taken adequate measures to thwart nefarious designs of anti-national elements and their mentors from across the border. 

Security officials said 1.96 lakh pilgrims have so far registered for the yatra, which for the first time will see the use of radio frequency (RF) tags on Amarnath- bound vehicles— for monitoring purpose— and CRPF motorcycle squads in action.

The government has also decided to extend the validity of temporary prepaid mobile connections taken by pilgrims from seven days to 10 days.

Security arrangements around the base camps, temples, railway stations, bus stands and other crowded places here have been strengthened, the officials said. 

Around 40,000 security personnel from Jammu and Kashmir Police, paramilitary, National Disaster Response Force and the Army, have been being deployed for this year's pilgrimage, the officials said.

A total of 2.60 lakh pilgrims offered prayers at the shrine last year. 

Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB), considering the carrying capacity of the existing tracks and other available infrastructure in the pilgrimage area, has decided to allow 7, 500 pilgrims on each route daily.

These are the traditional 36-km route from Pahalgam and the shortest 12-km route from Baltal.

This will exclude pilgrims travelling by helicopter.