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Amarnath Yatra: Home Minister Amit Shah takes stock of preparations, security

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NEW DELHI: Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Friday took a detailed review of the preparations being made for a smooth conduct of the upcoming Amarnath pilgrimage in Jammu and Kashmir, sources said.

The 62-day-long annual pilgrimage to the cave shrine of Amarnath, located at a height of 3,880 metres in the south Kashmir Himalayas, will begin on July 1 and continue till August 31.

Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha, the Army’s Northern Command chief Lieutenant General Upendra Dwivedi, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla, Director of Intelligence Bureau Tapan Deka were among the top functionaries who attended the meeting.

The home minister reviewed the preparations for the Amarnath pilgrimage with top officials of the central government, Army and the Jammu and Kashmir administration, the sources said.

Shah also took stock of the plans being formulated to ensure foolproof security for the pilgrimage, they said.

According to the sources, there have been intelligence inputs that Pakistan-based terrorist groups may try to disrupt the pilgrimage.

All stakeholders of the pilgrimage have taken part in the meeting and all issues relating to arrangements being made for it have been been discussed.

Last year, 3.45 lakh people visited the holy cave and this year, the figure could go up to 5 lakh, they said.

The sources said that to avoid any incident like last year’s flash flood which claimed 16 lives near the shrine, the National Disaster Response Force has started identifying ideal locations for setting up pilgrim camps keeping in mind any possible unforeseen natural disaster.

Indian Air Force helicopters are expected to be deployed to carry out aerial sorties in the upper reaches of the holy cave to check for glacial events and the formation of lakes that may trigger flash floods downhill.

Last year, such sorties were conducted only after the flash floods occurred in June, but this year, the exercise will be undertaken before the start of the pilgrimage and at continuous intervals during the two-month yatra, the sources said.

The aerial surveys may be conducted by a team with expertise in remote sensing and satellite, hydrology and disaster response. Once a dangerous water build-up is spotted, contingency measures will be taken all along the pilgrimage route, especially in the areas near the cave shrine, they added.

Recently, a lot of snow has been found along both the tracks – Baltal and Pahalgam – leading to the holy cave and therefore the Border Roads Organisation has been given the task to clear the snow by June 15, the sources said. (PTI)

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