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First batch of pilgrims reaches base camps of Amarnath shrine


Press Trust of India Srinagar/Jammu
Amid tight security, the first batch of nearly 3,000 Amarnath pilgrims, who started from Jammu today, reached the twin base camps at Baltal and Pahalgam in Kashmir this evening.
The first batch of 2,995 pilgrims was flagged off from the Bhagwati Nagar base camp by Advisors to the Governor B B Vyas and K Vijay Kumar in presence of Chief Secretary B V R Subrahmanyam this morning.
Of this group of pilgrims, 1,904 have opted for traditional Pahalgam route while 1,091 choose the Baltal route to reach the Himalayan cave shrine in south Kashmir. The batch comprises of 2,334 men, 520 women, 21 children and 120 Sadhus, officials said.
The pilgrims, coming from across the country, were taken to their respective base camps as security forces dotted the 400-km road length from Jammu to Baltal and Pahalgam.
The government is for the first time using radio frequency (RF) tags to track Amarnath-bound vehicles, while the CRPF has introduced motorcycle squads with cameras and various life-saving equipment.
Around 40,000 security personnel from the Jammu and Kashmir Police, paramilitary, National Disaster Response Force and the Army, have been deployed for this year's pilgrimage.
A total of 2.60 lakh pilgrims offered prayers at the shrine last year.
Considering the carrying capacity of the existing tracks and other available infrastructure in the pilgrimage area, the SASB has decided to allow 7, 500 pilgrims on each route daily.
The fleet of 109 vehicles was escorted by security forces vehicles from Jammu upto the base camp as security has been heightened for this year's yatra in view of the militant attack on a bus carrying Amarnath pilgrims that left eight of them dead and 18 others injured.
The first batch will be joined by other pilgrims, who have reached the Pahalgam and Baltal base camps on their own, as they will start the arduous trek to the 3,880 metre high cave shrine housing the naturally forming ice-lingam, marking the formal commencement of the yatra.
While the pilgrims performing the yatra via shorter Baltal route usually return to the base camp within a day, those taking the traditional Pahalgam route have to trek 42 kms, with an overnight stay at one of the halting stations before they can pay obeisance at the cave shrine.
Earlier, speaking at the flagging off ceremony in Jammu, Advisor B B Vyas said coordinated efforts have been put in place by the concerned agencies to ensure smooth and safe conduct of the Yatra.
''Amarnath Yatra is a very significant annual event. With the cooperation of public, security agencies and development agencies, we have put a scheme in place and are trying our best to address concerns of the yatris and ensure smooth flow of traffic,'' Advisor Vijay Kumar said.
The yatra will begin tomorrow and conclude on 26 August to coincide with Raksha Bandhan festival.

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First Published: Jun 27 2018 | 10:05 PM IST

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