Pilgrimage to the cave shrine of Vaishno Devi in the Trikuta Hills of Jammu and Kashmir’ Reasi district will resume from Sunday after remaining suspended for nearly five months in view of the coronavirus pandemic, officials said on Saturday. The yatra was suspended on March 18.
Ramesh Kumar, the Chief Executive Officer of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board (SMVSB) said the pilgrimage will resume from tomorrow, and in the first week there shall be a cap of 2,000 pilgrims each day of which 1,900 would be from Jammu and Kashmir and the remaining 100 from outside. The situation will be reviewed thereafter and decisions will be taken accordingly, he said.
“People will be allowed to undertake the pilgrimage after registration only through online in order to avoid any assembly at the yatra registration counter.” The pilgrims will be required to install Aarogya Setu App on their mobile phones. Wearing face masks and face cover is mandatory and they will have to undergo thermal scanning at yatra entry points, the SMVSB CEO said.
Children below 10 years, pregnant women, persons with comorbidities and those above 60 years have been advised to avoid the pilgrimage, he said, adding the advisory for this group will be revisited when the situation normalises. Kumar said traditional routes — from Katra to Bhawan via Banganga, Adhkuwari and Sanjichhat — will be used for going up and Himkoti route-Tarakote Marg will be used for coming back from Bhawan.
COVID negative report of the pilgrims from outside Jammu and Kashmir and also from the red zone districts of the Union Territory will be checked at the helipad and yatra entry points at Darshani Deodi, Banganga, Katra. “Only those with negative reports will be allowed to move towards Bhawan. Ponies, pithus and palkis will not be allowed to ply on the tracks initially,” he said.
“For the ease and comfort of pilgrims, all supplementary facilities set up by the Board like battery operated vehicles, passenger ropeway and helicopter services will ply by strictly following social distancing norms and other precautionary measures,” Kumar added. Booking and sitting of pilgrims in Atka Aarti area and Shradha Suman Vishesh Pooja will not be allowed till further orders.
“Cloakrooms will be allowed to open but blanket stores will remain closed, initially. All these measured will be reviewed fortnightly,” the CEO added. A massive sanitization campaign has been launched by the Shrine Board right from Katra to Bhawan before the resumption of the pilgrimage.