No plan to construct road to Amarnath: Govt
‘Apex Court Has Not Given Any Such Directive’
ARIF SHAFI WANI
Srinagar, Aug 19: The State Government on Sunday said that it does have any plan to construct a concrete road to the Amarnath Cave and is committed to conserve the fragile eco-system of the area.
The Government also claimed that the Supreme Court has not given any directive to start construction of the road towards the cave.
Addressing a press conference here, the Minister for Finance Abdul Rahim Rather said that for past many days reports are being published in some national newspapers about construction of a road to the cave.
“Many leaders and civil society members have also voiced their concern over these reports of road construction. Attempts are being made to vitiate peaceful atmosphere in the state on a non-existent issue. I want to clarify that the state Government has no plans to construct the road to Amarnath Cave or any big infrastructure in Baltal or Pahalgam which could be detrimental to the eco-system,” said Rather who was flanked by Minister for Health Sham Lal Sharma.
The Chairman of Hurriyat Conference (M) Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and civil society of Kashmir had recently expressed concern over construction of a road to Amarnath Cave, saying it will pose threat to the fragile eco-system in the area.
Rather said the Amarnath Yatra concluded peacefully this year due to cooperation of people of Jammu and Kashmir. “Unfortunately some deaths of the pilgrims took place due to cardiac arrest and other ailments. The Supreme Court on July 13, 2012, took suo-moto cognizance of these deaths and citing Article 21 of the Constitution, Right to Life, it sought report from the state and Union Governments regarding the facilities provided to the pilgrims,” Rather said.
Elaborating, Rather said the Apex Court framed seven questions for seeking the response which included whether there exist proper medical facilities to prevent human casualties; steps being taken and have been taken to protect the environment in that area.
Besides, the Apex Court had sought details about measures undertaken for handling such a massive crowd. “Why seven times the requisite number of people coming to visit the cave per day are being permitted and if so, whether there is any infrastructure at the site for handling such a huge crowd?” the Court asked.
Rather said that on July 20, 2012, the Court constituted a special high-powered committee to look into the issue of growing number of casualties of Amarnath pilgrims and look into environmental concern in the area.
“Lack of public amenities, facilities, healthcare particularly the high rate of mortality which has been highlighted in various press cuttings in our order dated July 13, requires attention of all concerned. This being a matter of serious concern, having serious technical, geographical and environmental issues, it will not be appropriate for this court to venture into providing detailed steps and measures that are required to be taken by the Union of India, State Government and the Shrine Board. This Court lacks the expertise in this but at the same time it is not a matter which can be ignored by this Court, as the basic and fundamental rights of the citizens of this country are at stake. Thus we consider it appropriate to constitute a Special High Powered Committee which would visit the site, examine various facets and submit its suggestions in the form of a report that would enable this Court to pass appropriate directions,” Rather said while quoting the direction of the Apex Court.
The committee comprises of secretaries of various departments including those from the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Home Affairs, Health and Child Welfare, Shri Amarnath Shrine Board besides the chief secretary of Jammu and Kashmir Government.
Rather said the Special High Powered Committee is yet to submit its report to the Apex Court. “The report is to be filed on September 10 and hence there does not arise any question of Apex Court passing directions for construction of a road,” Rather said.
However the Apex Court order of July 13, which was circulated to press during the press conference, hints at construction of the road.
“The time intervening the previous and the current year clearly demonstrates that the authorities have not taken any effective and appropriate measures for protecting the life of thousands of devotees who visit the cave during this limited period despite the print media repeatedly bringing this to the notice of all concerned. This within the constitutional mandate of Article 21, this Court would have no option but pass appropriate directions,” the Court observes in the order.
“All these aspects need to be taken care of the concerned authorities certainly with greater emphasis and they cannot escape their obligation to provide minimum essential facilities including roads as an approach towards the Holy cave. They are expected to equip forces posted in an around the cave so as to have complete human dignity for the persons working there as well as for the pilgrims coming to the cave. They are also expected to make appropriate arrangements for darshans at the cave so as to avoid health hazards and injuries, provide proper paths and one way system passages to the pilgrims,” the order further adds.
Rather however admitted that the number of pilgrims who visited the shrine this year was high. “We have been taking every measure to regulate the pilgrimage. Deaths which occurred in the area were natural. If the Special High Powered Committee recommends that there is need of any improvement, we will take appropriate measures,” he said.
“The pilgrims will continue to use ponies and palanquins for the journey. People should not pay heed to rumours. J&K has witnessed two peaceful years and people are reaping its dividends in terms of tourism and development,” Rather said.
Minster for Health and Family Welfare, Sham Lal Sharma said 86 pilgrims died this year against 107 in 2011. “Deaths are a natural phenomenon in a high altitude area and there is no question of Government’s fault. We provide every possible healthcare facility to the pilgrims. Some national newspapers blew the issue out of proportion,” Sharma said.
Lastupdate on : Sun, 19 Aug 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sun, 19 Aug 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Mon, 20 Aug 2012 00:00:00 IST
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