SRINAGAR: Rescue operations to evacuate stranded Yatris from Panjtarni to Baltal were launched early today.
The virtually non-stop rainfall over the past several days has adversely affected the track conditions, particularly on the Baltal-Sangam-Holy Cave route. Besides landslides at several places the maximum disruption has been caused by shooting stones and the sinking of the track at certain locations. As directed by the Governor, sick pilgrims as well as the aged and women Yatris were amongst the first to be airlifted when three Indian Air Force MI-17 Helicopters started operating sorties from Panjtarni to Baltal.
Cancelling a pre-scheduled tour to Jammu, in connection with an important engagement, Governor Vohra, accompanied by B.B. Vyas, Advisor to Governor, and Umang Narula, Chief Executive Officer, visited Baltal, Panjtarni and Nunwan (Pahalgam) Yatra Camps for a first hand assessment of the ground situation.
Besides holding meetings with the Camp Directors and senior Civil officers of the various departments, Deputy Commissioners and SSPs Ganderbal and Anantnag districts, officers of Police, Army, BRO etc, Governor met the pilgrims to hear their problems.
After discussions with Deputy Commissioners, SSPs, Camp Directors and all other concerned officers, Governor gave directions regarding the cut-off timings for the upward and downward movements on the Baltal-Panjtarni-Baltal Track; urgent deployment of additional Police personnel, MRTP rescue teams and SDRF teams at all the critical locations on the tracks to regulate the movement of Yatris, particularly those who are unwell; urgent deployment of additional labour for the immediate restoration of the damaged portions of the track and, besides, to stand-by for repairing any arising problem; installation of lights along the damaged/vulnerable portions of the track; deployment of a Magistrate at Brarimarg; Camp Directors and Police to ensure strict enforcement of the rates charged for tents, ponies, porters, palkis etc and particularly ensure against any overcharging; as the Baltal route has become in-operative due to falling stones/landslides Camp Director Baltal was instructed to see that Yatris who possess Registration to travel on the Baltal route should be facilitated to undertake their pilgrimage via the Pahalgam route if they so wish; J&K Bank to be approached for urgently establishing facility for disbursal of cash at Panjtarni till an ATM is installed here.
With a view to regulate the movement of pilgrims from Jammu onwards, till the Baltal track becomes operational the Governor has convened an Emergency Meeting at the Raj Bhavan today evening for taking appropriate decisions and making them known to pilgrims and all concerned authorities in the State.