3 Amarnath Yatris die on way to cave

Srinagar: Three Amarnath pilgrims have died due to various reasons on way to the cave shrine in south Kashmir Himalayas since the annual Yatra began Saturday, police said Sunday.
Two pilgrims died when they were hit by shooting stones rolling down the mountains en route the 3,880-metre-high cave shrine Sunday morning, a police spokesman said.
He said the deceased have been identified as Suresh Yadav, 35, from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh and 28-year-old Tara Singh from Bhatinda in Punjab.
The two men were killed when they were coming down the stairs of the shrine after paying their obeisance, according to a Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) spokesman.
He said on being informed about the incident, the Governor, N.N. Vohra asked the Chief Executive Officer of SASB, R.K. Gupta, and Preet Pal Singh, Additional Chief Executive Officer, to forthwith proceed to the cave shrine to take on spot decision about the threat posed by the rolling stones and take other required action.
“The CEO and Additional CEO immediately left for the Holy Cave in a State helicopter. After assessing the ground situation and holding consultation with the Camp Directors and Security Officers located at the shrine, the CEO gave instructions regarding an immediate reconnaissance of the hill side from which the rocks had rolled down,” the spokesman said.
“The CEO made arrangements for the bodies of the deceased to be transported from the cave to Sonamarg for completion of legal and other formalities and being kept in the State Health Department mortuary. The next of kin of the deceased are being contacted and all required support will be provided for their cremation or the bodies being transported to their native places,” he added.
“Both the deceased were duly registered Yatris, as revealed by the documents recovered from their bodies. As per the Shrine Board’s policy, all registered pilgrims who may get killed in any accident in the Yatra area, during the Yatra period, are provided by an insurance cover of rupees one lakh. On return to Srinagar, in consultation with the Governor, who is Chairman of the Shrine Board, the CEO announced that besides the insurance money, the next of kin of the deceased, after due verification, would also be provided ex-gratia support of rupees one lakh in each case, on behalf of the Board. The Chairman also directed that expenditures on the transportation of the dead bodies to the native places of the deceased would be borne by the Board,” the spokesman said.
Another pilgrim, Sunil, 31, died due to cardiac arrest at Railpathri on Saturday evening, the spokesman said.
The 44-day-long Amarnath Yatra began from the shorter Baltal route Saturday with over 10,000 pilgrims performing the ‘darshan’ of the naturally-formed ice-‘lingam’ inside the cave.
The pilgrimage from the traditional Pahalgam route has been deferred for three days as many parts of the 46-kilometre track are still covered by snow.
A decision on starting the Yatra from the traditional route will be taken by the SASB after reviewing the snow clearance operation Monday.
The Yatra will end on August 10, coinciding with Raksha Bandhan festival. (with inputs from PTI)