Amid the heightened security threat to the Amarnath Yatra this year, the government has decided to insure every pilgrim for Rs 5 lakh and give all of them unique Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags—earlier given to vehicles only. The information was shared by Arvind Mehta, Chief Secretary of the Jammu and Kashmir administration, during a meeting chaired by Union Home Minister Amit Shah Tuesday on security preparedness for the Amarnath Yatra, scheduled to begin on June 30.
Shah held three high-level meetings and two of them focused on security and logistics for the Amarnath Yatra, while the third was on the overall security situation in Jammu and Kashmir against the backdrop of terrorists increasingly targeting migrants and non-Muslim Kashmiris in the Valley.
“The Chief Secretary of Jammu and Kashmir, said that for the first time every Amarnath Yatri would be given a RIFD card and would be insured for Rs. 5 lakh. A tent city, WiFi hotspots and proper lighting will be arranged on the yatra’s travel route. Along with this, online live Darshan of Baba Barfani, live telecast of the morning and evening aarti at the holy Amarnath Cave and religious and cultural programs will be organized at the Base Camp,” the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said in a statement.
According to the Ministry, Shah took stock of the “security and essential facilities for passengers” even as he said that it was the “priority of the Modi Government that pilgrims coming for the Amarnath Yatra should have easy Darshan and they should not face any problems”.
Though Shah routinely holds meetings to review the security situation in Jammu and Kashmir, Tuesday’s meetings are significant as there is an apprehension of terror groups attempting to disrupt the Amarnath Yatra, being held after a gap of two years. In fact, the Amarnath Yatra beginning on June 30 will be the first after the August 5, 2019, decisions that stripped the erstwhile state of its special status and bifurcation it into two Union Territories.
Sources said the first meeting focused on logistical arrangements for the Yatra which included deliberations on infrastructure, weather, health, transport and telecommunication among other issues. The meeting was attended by J&K Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla, Intelligence Bureau Director Arvind Kumar, and chief secretary and ACS (Home) of J&K administration among others. The second meeting, which dealt with security for the Yatra, also had National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval and Indian Army chief General Manoj Pande apart from J&K director general of police (DGP) Dilbagh Singh.
“Instructions have been given to make adequate arrangements for all necessary facilities including movement, lodging, electricity, water, communication and health of Amarnath pilgrims. This is the first yatra after the COVID-19 pandemic and due to the high altitude, adequate arrangements will have to be made for yatris who have any health related problems,” added the MHA statement.
According to the MHA, instructions have been given that mobile towers should be increased for better communication and dissemination of any information on the travel route. Authorities have been directed to deploy machines to open the route immediately in case of landslides.
“Along with ensuring an adequate number of oxygen cylinders, adequate medical beds at an altitude of more than 6,000 feet and deployment of ambulances and helicopters to deal with any emergency medical situation. All categories of transport services should be increased during the Amarnath Yatra for the convenience of passengers,” the MHA statement said.
Coming on the back of last week’s suspected terror attack on a passenger bus in Katra, the town abutting the holy shrine of Vaishno Devi, the meeting is learnt to have focused on providing unprecedented security for the Yatra. A bus carrying Vaishno Devi pilgrims last week caught fire leading to four deaths and more than 20 being injured.
Investigations have found that a sticky bomb may have been used to trigger a blast near the fuel tank of the bus by suspected operatives of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).