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Committee formed to dispel apprehensions over Vaishno Devi ropeway project: LG Sinha

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Jammu: Lt Governor Manoj Sinha on Saturday said a committee has been formed to dispel apprehensions of Katra residents over the proposed ropeway project at the Vaishno Devi shrine.
Sinha, who is also the chairperson of the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board (SMVDSB), was speaking to reporters after dedicating the newly constructed Durga Bhawan having the capacity to accommodate 3,000 pilgrims per day near the sanctum sanctorum.
Responding to a question about the resentment among the residents of Katra over the proposed ropeway project, Sinha said his administration is open to suggestions and wants them onboard while executing the project which would help people with disabilities to visit the shrine.
“There are apprehensions among the Katra residents (over the loss of livelihood opportunities after the construction of the ropeway). We want to dispel those apprehensions and want them to be on board,” the LG said.
Katra town, the base camp for pilgrims visiting the shrine, witnessed massive protest against the construction of the proposed ropeway on February 28, a week after Sinha announced that the project is in the final phase of tendering and will be undertaken with utmost sensitivity to safeguard the interests of the local businessmen.
The SMVDSB has recently approved a Rs 250-crore passenger ropeway project between Tarakote Marg and Sanji Chat along the 12-km track to facilitate elderly people, medically unfit and disabled people who are not able to offer their prayers at the shrine.
“It (ropeway project) is still in the pre-consultation phase. We have framed a committee comprising Divisional Commissioner (Jammu), CEO shrine Board and other officials who will hold talks with the people and note their suggestions,” said Sinha, who paid his obeisance at the shrine and also participated in a special prayer.
“I am sure the issue will be resolved to the best satisfaction of the people who will be benefited (from the project),” he said.
People with disabilities and other health issues across the country wish to visit the shrine but are not able to pay their obeisance, he said, suggesting that the facility was meant to facilitate such devotees.
“Once the issue is resolved, we will come out with the construction and inauguration date of the service as well,” he said.
Earlier addressing the gathering, the Lt Governor said the interests of traders, pony walas, local business community and other stakeholders are being safeguarded while developing the facilities for the devotees.
“The ropeway from Tarakote to Sanjhi Chhat will come up soon. I assure the local people, traders and all the stakeholders that the ropeway facility will be provided to only elderly, sick and specially-abled devotees,” he said, adding “we have kept a limited capacity of devotees per day. There will be no impact on the livelihood of traders, business community and ponywalas.”
Lauding the shrine board for completing the five-storey Durga Bhawan in 18 months braving challenging weather conditions and topography, the LG said the administration is duty-bound to ensure better facilities for the pilgrims.
“The Dugra Bhawan can accommodate 3,000 pilgrims per day and it will provide ease and comfort to the seekers besides, ensuring effective crowd management,” he said, adding the work is also nearing completion on other vital projects including the Skywalk near the Bhawan.
According to the officials, work on widening of Atka Aarti complex is likely to be completed soon and will increase the sitting capacity from 200 to 550, while the Skywalk will be completed by June.
“The Shrine Board has started various new initiatives for providing better facilities to the pilgrims. Spiritual and cultural heritage is being revived by building modern infrastructure and administration is committed to ensure that devotees on sacred pilgrimage are looked after well,” Sinha said.
He said it is the responsibility of the shrine board to enrich the traditional values and facilitate the spiritual journey of the devotees coming from across the country and abroad, especially those who are elderly, sick and specially-abled.
The Lt Governor also shared the efforts for bringing the prominent spiritual and religious places of the region on the spiritual tourism circuit which will also generate livelihood opportunities for the locals.
“The board has also approved the reconstruction of Shankaracharya temple near Katra. Underground cabling works will be completed next month and Skywalk will be ready by the month of June. Many more projects are in the pipeline to uplift the religious tourism sector in the region,” he said.
Earlier, the Lt Governor paid obeisance at the sanctum sanctorum and prayed for happiness, peace and prosperity for all.
Dr Arun Kumar Mehta, Chief Secretary; Dr. Mandeep Kumar Bhandari, Principal Secretary to the Lt Governor; Ramesh Kumar, Divisional Commissioner Jammu; Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board Members; Anshul Garg, CEO SMVDSB, Donors and pilgrims in large numbers attended the inaugural ceremony.

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