The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tour pack sop for trek to Amarnath

Srinagar, June 17: The government has offered a special tourist package to Amarnath pilgrims, allowing them an extended stay in the Valley at concessional rates.

Arrangements for the month-long yatra, which begins on July 12, were finalised at a high-level meeting in Pahalgam.

The Jammu and Kashmir Bank and the state tourism development corporation have come up with a special package.

Giving details, an official said: “It (the package) offers an eight days’ and seven nights’ stay in the Valley, including the days of pilgrimage. Pilgrims have to pay Rs 3,900 per head for a journey by coach and Rs 4,800 per head for a trip by (Tata) Sumo.”

The official added: “The tour package starts and ends at Jammu railway station. It entails a visit to Pahalgam the first day and to the cave shrine the next four days. On the fifth day, pilgrims will be brought to Srinagar via Baltal and will be taken to places of tourist interest there. The next day, they will have a night halt at Gulmarg, proceeding to Srinagar on the seventh day. On the last day, they will head back to Jammu.”

The pilgrims will get preferential treatment under the package, which includes transportation, accommodation on twin-sharing basis at Srinagar and accommodation in tents with vegetarian meals at Gulmarg.

At the meeting, it was decided that 3,500 pilgrims will be allowed to proceed every day. While 2,700 pilgrims will be allowed to proceed from Pahalgam, 800 will be allowed via Baltal.

No pilgrim will be allowed to join the yatra without registration — all of them have been urged to register with the Jammu and Kashmir Bank.

The government has asked the bank to open temporary counters at Dehra Dun to facilitate registration of pilgrims from Uttaranchal. Pilgrims from Nepal can register at the bank’s Patna branch.

An insurance cover similar to that offered to pilgrims heading to Vaishno Devi is to be introduced. The Rs 1 lakh cover with a Rs 20 premium will be available at the time of registration.

The meeting was attended by chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, senior army, police paramilitary officials. They were told that railway tracks along the way were being improved and upgraded and that shelters were being created at pilgrim halts.

Those present were informed that the families of security forces and police would be allowed to make the yatra from July 5 to 11 so that they did not add to the already high numbers during the pilgrimage proper.

A countrywide awareness campaign will be launched to educate pilgrims about what to expect. They will be informed about the cold, hostile weather they might experience, the high altitude and tough terrain as well as the low oxygen and shortage of shelters along the way. Pilgrims will also be told what precautions to take.

Speaking at the meeting, Governor S.K. Sinha said there should be no compromise on security.

He said all arrangements should be in place before the yatra starts.

Sinha said India could take pride in the pilgrimage as it was now attracting national as well as international attention.

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