CS reviews Yatra arrangements

The Sub-Committee constituted by the Supreme Court for Shri Amarnathji Yatra held a meeting today under the chairmanship of Chief Secretary, B V R Subrahmanyam, here.

While reviewing the preparations for Yatra 2020, the Chief Secretary observed that in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, the State Executive Committee constituted under the Disaster Management Act has issued SoPs which inter alia prescribe 100% RTPCR test for all persons travelling into J&K.

He said that “all entrants into J&K will have to be sampled, tested and quarantined till they are reported to be negative”.

The Chief Secretary, as per the official statement, further said that the camping facilities earlier utilized for Yatris, especially at entry points are currently being utilized as quarantine centres.

He emphasised that SoPs for testing of persons entering J&K shall apply to Yatris as well. “Besides, social distancing norms would further strain these holding capacities.”

The CS said that keeping in view these circumstances, the Yatra this year would have to be undertaken in a restricted manner, so that the SoPs for COVID-19 are strictly adhered to during the conduct of the Yatra.

During the meeting, the Chief Secretary was briefed by the concerned departments with regard to status of works including upgradation/ improvement along the track from Baltal to the cave shrine at Kali Mata and emergency exit track from Sangam, execution of works relating to stabilization of hill slopes near the holy cave, installation of railings along critical stretches of the track, construction of additional Helipads at Lower Holy Cave and construction of sanitization tunnels at Neelgrath Helipad, Baltal and Domel.

The CS also reviewed strengthening of foot bridges and routine works viz. installation of bailey bridges, milestones, upgradation of remaining 1.25 km of road from Baltal Base Camp to Domel by laying pre-cast concrete blocks and laying of tiles on remaining 95 meter stretch of alternate road from Neelgrath to Baltal.

Financial Commissioner, Finance, Financial Commissioner, Health & Medical Education, Principal Secretary, Home, Principal Secretary, Animal & Sheep Husbandry, Commissioner Secretary, Forest, Ecology & Environment, Divisional Commissioner, Jammu, Secretary, Planning, Development & Monitoring, Secretary, Disaster Management, Relief, Rehabilitation & Reconstruction, Director, Information,  and senior officers participated in the meeting.

Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, Deputy Commissioners and SSPs of Ganderbal and Anantnag districts, Additional CEO, Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) besides other senior functionaries of the concerned departments attended the meeting through video conference.

The FC Health also gave a brief with regard to routine healthcare as also additional arrangements being made, keeping in view the present Coronavirus pandemic situation.

It was informed that adequate stock of drugs, consumable items, sleeping bags, besides PPE kits and masks are being made available to the doctors and paramedical staff being deployed for Yatra duty.

He apprised that two base Hospitals are also being established along Baltal route.

However, he was concerned about the stress in the medical system because of the Yatra.

The meeting was informed that 9 out of 10 Kashmir districts are Red and the entire medical system is fully stretched in handling the challenge. “No doctors would be available from outside J&K for the Yatra this year. Isolation facilities will have to be created to ensure any COVID-19 challenges are addressed on emergent basis at the Camp itself. Also, COVID and high altitude sickness symptoms are quite similar and all cases will have to be treated as deemed COVID positive in case of an emergency. Also, special arrangements will have to be made for handling dead bodies.”

The Chief Secretary directed the concerned departments to monitor the activities pertaining to their departments, so that all works are executed and arrangements put in place well in time for Yatra 2020.

Issues related to Animal Husbandry, PHE, Power, Forests, FCS&CA, Telecom connectivity, weather forecast and sanitization were also discussed and directions issued accordingly.

“Given the constraints, a maximum of 500 yatris only could be allowed per day by road from Jammu. Therefore, arrangements will have to be limited to this number,” the meeting was informed.

It was informed that Baba Amarnath Aarti this year will be telecast live on Doordarshan.

The Chief Secretary emphasised that adequate arrangement should be made to ensure uninterrupted telecast of the Aarti. With regard to the security arrangements, the Chief Secretary asked the Police department to ensure effective regulation of Yatra at access control gates.

He emphasised that all deployments in relation to security, rescue and fire and emergency need to be in place well in time.