J&K accepts SHPC recommendations, assures full support for dev works

SYED BASHARAT. Dated: 10/25/2012 12:18:35 AM

Amarnath pilgrims’ deaths

SRINAGAR, Oct 24: The state government has in principal accepted all the recommendations made by the Special High Empowered Committee (SHPC) constituted by the Supreme Court to ensure hassle free annual Amarnath Yatra in Kashmir. The government has also assured full support to Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) for developmental works in the pilgrimage area to facilitate a hassle free Yatra.
A bench of Apex Court comprising Justice B S Chauhan and Justice Swatanter Kumar who took suo moto cognizance of newspaper reports about deaths of the Shri Amarnath pilgrims, had asked the central government and government of Jammu and Kashmir to file their responses to the SHPC report recommending various measures to reduce death rate of Amarnath pilgrims.
Referring to the response filed by the Jammu and Kashmir government, the bench in its order has said: “We are happy to note that State of Jammu and Kashmir has, in principle, accepted all the recommendations made by the SHPC and even ensures their compliance subject to other statutory clearance as prevalent in the State.”
The order issued by Justice B S Chauhan and Justice Swatanter Kumar has added that before a final judgment on the matter is passed by the Apex court, the state government ensure full cooperation and grant permissions to Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) to go for necessary works.
“...At present, the request of the learned counsel appearing for the Shrine Board also is that some of the following works, which can be executed before it becomes absolutely difficult for executing any work at Baltal or surrounding areas, may be commenced forthwith : (1) Sewage system of Baltal (STP) at Baltal, and (2) Widening of passage from Baltal to Shrine. Both these works shall commence forthwith. The state government, its departments and all the development authorities shall ensure full cooperation and expeditiously grant such permissions as may be necessary to execute these works at the earliest,” the Supreme Court order reads.
The Apex Court has also said that Advocate General appearing for the State of Jammu and Kashmir has assured it of full cooperation to be extended to the Shrine Board, “and the State would take full responsibility for execution of the works through the Shrine Board.”
Meanwhile, Chief Secretary and the Shrine Board have been directed to immediately make the planning in relation to providing all medical facilities, registration and other ancillary works, including deployment of forces and ensuring one way passage at the Shrine during the next Yatra. “This planning should be done in conformity with the recommendations made by the Special High Powered Committee and a tentative plan should be placed before the Court on the next date of hearing (i.e. 21.11.2012),” reads the Supreme Court order.
On July 20, this year the Supreme Court had set up SHPC to recommend measures to reduce the number of casualties of Amarnath pilgrims. The SHPC comprised senior officials of the Centre, Jammu and Kashmir government, security forces and Amarnath Shrine Board. The recommendations made by the committee were submitted to the apex court in August.
The state government filed its interim report on the subject as was sought by the Apex court after it took suo moto cognizance of mounting deaths of pilgrims. Around 80 pilgrims died due to natural cause while over 30 passed away in road accidents during the Amarnath pilgrimage this year.
While referring to 107 pilgrims who died during the last year's yatra, the apex court said that “the time intervening the previous and the current year clearly demonstrates that the authorities have not taken any effective and appropriate measures for protecting the life of thousands of devotees who visit the holy cave during this limited period, despite the print media repeatedly bringing this to the notice of all concerned.”
The seven issues raised by the Apex court included: “Whether there exist proper medical facilities to prevent human casualties. Further to provide emergency medical aid in the event of these Yatris (pilgrims) falling sick because of cardiac and other related problems’ and the steps taken to ‘protect the environment in that area’ including ‘collection and disposal of the waste...including by Yatris ‘enroute and around the holy cave’. ‘All these aspects need to be taken care of by the concerned authorities certainly with greater emphasis and they cannot escape their obligation to provide minimum essential facilities including roads as an approach to the holy cave.”



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