Civil Society Alarmed By J-K ‘Consent’

Asks NC-Led Govt To Come Clean

Srinagar – Prominent civil society group, Kashmir Centre for Social and Development Studies (KCSDS) has expressed grave concern over the reports suggesting the National Conference-led government’s “in-principle consent” to the recommendations of the Supreme Court-appointed Special High Power Committee on Amarnath Yatra, paving the way for building roads from Baltal and Nunwan to the cave.

Asking the state government to explain its stand and come up with details about the plan of road construction to the cave, KCSDS chairperson, Prof  Hameedah Nayeem, said,” In case of the government’s failure to do so, the civil society of Jammu and Kashmir will be compelled to take drastic steps, the responsibility for which will rest with the government.”

She said all these measures suggested a complete disregard of the public sentiments in Kashmir and beyond and demanded a review of the number of people visiting the cave on the basis of the Supreme Court’s directions in case of other such fragile Himalayan mountain locations, including Gangotri.

“It also goes on to prove application of two different standards in J&K and rest of India when it comes to the Supreme Court’s efforts in the preservation and conservation of environment and ecology,” she said in a statement.

The KCSDS chief said the state cabinet’s “in-principle consent” proved that the state government’s earlier assertions to the contrary were completely false. “The move to let Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) by making it responsible for the construction of the roads was tantamount to complete surrender of J&K government’s authority and the creation of a state system within a state,” the statement added.

Expressing concern over the impact on the ecology of the zone by such a move, the KCSDS called it ‘a dangerous first step towards mindless and environment-unfriendly urbanisation of Pahalgam and Sonamarg areas for expanding the ambit of the yatra by encouraging even a greater number of people to visit this fragile area’.

According to reports, the Apex Court on Thursday directed the Jammu and Kashmir government and Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) to immediately start implementing the safety measures recommended by the SC-appointed Special High Powered Committee (SHPC) for minimizing casualties among the pilgrims.

A bench comprising Justices B S Chauhan and Swatanter Kumar passed the order after the Jammu and Kashmir advocate-general, Muhammad Ishaq Qadri, informed the court that the state cabinet had yesterday (October 11) accepted “in principle” the recommendations made by the SHPC.

In an affidavit filed in the Court, special secretary, Tourism and Culture, A K Gupta, said the cabinet “agrees, in principle” with the recommendations of the SHPC for carrying out “different activities by different agencies in accordance with the various statutory provisions, including those related to forests, wildlife sanctuaries and eco-sensitive zones.”

The bench asked the state government and SASB to begin with the widening of the track between Baltal and the cave shrine and the installation of sewer treatment plants at Baltal and complete as much work as possible before the winter season came in the way.

The Court asked the chief secretary and Board to prepare a blue-print early to augment medical facilities all along the route and provision of one-way passage to the shrine. The tentative plan should be submitted to the Court on the next hearing on November 21, the Bench said.

Private individuals and entities wanting to chip in the efforts with funds and material and manpower could approach Shrine Board which would have the discretion to accept or reject the offers. Since the state government had firmly rejected such offers, the Board could utilize such help for the work which did not involve the government, the Bench clarified, according to the reports. (Observer News Service With inputs from KNS)

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