After Geelani’s no, Government takes journos for copter ride

SHABIR IBN YUSUF

Srinagar, Oct 31: In a bid to clear the air over the controversy of ‘construction of track’ to Amarnath Cave, the State Government on Wednesday took a team of 16 journalists on an aerial survey of Baltal-Amarnath route to have a first-hand account of the situation.
About four helicopter sorties were undertaken to facilitate journalists from local and national print and electronic media to see whether any construction work is going on Baltal-Panjtarni-Amarnath Cave route. Flying over snow-capped route, the State-owned helicopter enabled the journalists to note that there were no changes in the track and no construction work has been undertaken at any place en route Amarnath Cave.
Some nomads were seen moving on the track towards their makeshift houses on the hills at Panjtarni. The helicopter took a turn ahead of snowbound Amarnath Cave to return to the Nehru Helipad here.
Briefing the journalists after their return, Inspector General of Police, Kashmir, S M Sahai said the statement on construction of road or macadamization of the track is misinformation. He was referring to allegations by Hurriyat (G) Chairman Syed Ali Geelani that Government intends to construct a road to Amarnath.
“There is no widening or macadamization of the track which you saw for yourself. There is nothing to hide,” he said. Explaining that the prevailing weather conditions won’t allow any activity in the area, he said it’s difficult even to tread on this track from September onwards till May.
“You saw the condition of the track which remains snowbound for almost nine months. Due to snow and rainfall accompanied by landslides, the tracks need upkeep and maintenance for the annual yatra. The clearance of blockades on tracks has been construed as road construction which is not the fact but part of misinformation campaign,” Sahai told the journalists.
Clarifying on the pictures produced by Geelani at a recent press conference, Sahai said these pictures were of pre-fabricated huts. “It was after the Supreme Court issued direction that the area must be sanitized, these photographs were taken during the cleaning up of the area,” he said.
Replying to a question why the journalists were not taken for aerial survey of Pahalgam route, IGP Kashmir said anyone is free to visit the area and check the situation there. “There is no problem in visiting Pahalgam area and anybody can go there,” he said.
“It is easy for pilgrims to undertake the journey through Baltal route and most of them visit the holy cave through this route,” he clarified.
Sahai said neither the Supreme Court nor the State High-Powered Committee has suggested construction of road to the cave.
"However, there are some sanitation issues and those are to be taken care of," he added.
This exercise by the Government was in response to Geelani’s claim that construction material has been dumped along the routes to the cave for creating permanent facilities, including a motorable road, for the pilgrims. Geelani has threatened to launch an agitation if the State Government did not shelve its plans.
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had offered a helicopter to Geelani for getting a first-hand view of the condition of the tracks. Omar had ruled out construction of road to the cave or any permanent facilities. He, however, said a sewerage treatment plant was needed to ensure that the pollution caused by the human movement during the yatra is dealt with scientifically. Geelani had rejected Omar’s offer, saying he doesn’t need to fly in helicopters.
Based on the recommendations of a high-level committee, the Apex Court has directed J&K Government to improve the existing facilities and the infrastructure for the pilgrimage. The court acted suo moto after about 82 pilgrims died during this year’s pilgrimage due to weather, accidents and health reasons.

Lastupdate on : Wed, 31 Oct 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 31 Oct 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 1 Nov 2012 00:00:00 IST




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