Govt Files Action Plan On Yatra Facilities In SC

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‘Apex Court Issued No Direction On Path Pavement’

SRINAGAR (ONS) – Jammu and Kashmir government in tandem with Shri Amarnath Shrine Board is likely to respond to various observations on improvement of infrastructure along the tracks leading to the cave shrine in light of the recommendations of the Special High Powered Committee headed by the governor, N N Vohra, who is also the chairman of the Board.

“The state government is likely to take the people into confidence over the controversial issues and may hold a press conference on Monday for the purpose,” a senior government official pleading anonymity said. He said the report of Special High Powered Committee appointed by the Apex Court and headed by the governor with the chief secretary as its nodal officer formed the basis and the government had committed itself to implement it. It has been approved by the state government, he said.

According to an order passed on November 22, the case in suo moto writ petition (Civil) No 284 of 2012 has been listed for further hearing on December 5, 2012 at 2 p.m. before the division bench of the Apex Court comprising Justice Dr B S Chauhan and Justice Swatanter Kumar. “Upon hearing counsel, the court made the following order: List on 5th December, 2012, at 2.00 p.m. for further hearing.”

“The Supreme Court did not issue any direction to the state government to ‘pave the passage from Panchtarni to Amarnath holy cave with pre-fabricated cement tiles to ensure that pilgrims do not slip on the way,’ but only listed the case for further hearing on 5th of next month,”  the official told Kashmir Observer.

Quoting the senior official present in the court during the hearing, sources said the court had sought the response of state government and SASB on three observations: (a) if the iron railing would be put along entire routes or in critical portions only to prevent pilgrims’ falling; (b) paving the surface with cement tiles to prevent slip; (c) provision of a 2-way path between Panjtarni and holy cave. “The response would be made on the next hearing,” they said.

Meanwhile, sources said, the government had filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court on November 21 detailing a comprehensive tentative plan for implementing the SHPC report containing recommendations about the steps for satisfactory management of the annual pilgrimage. It was filed by the special secretary, Tourism and Cultural Development on behalf of the state government.

The affidavit said the chief secretary had held a series of meetings and on the basis of the reports from various government departments and agencies, a tentative plan based on the SHPC recommendations had been prepared.

It spelt out the initiatives taken by government departments including Health, Roads & Building, Pollution Control Board, Tourism, Forest, Home besides the SASB. All the stakeholders have submitted before the Court specific datelines, by which all arrangement for smooth conduct of the Yatra 2013 should be in place.

Referring to the Baltal route, the affidavit said, “keeping in view the directions of the Supreme Court dated 11 October, 2012 to commence on the Baltal track forth with and taking into account the onset of winter, the entire work has been divided into two phases.”

Phase one comprises works which can be implemented this year after obtaining Forest clearances. Phase two would include works to be taken up in 2013. “However, all forest clearances required for the initiation of these works will be obtained by 31st December, this year. It is noteworthy that the project report has been prepared and indent has been placed”, says the affidavit.

Identifying the bottlenecks on existing Pahalgam track in the first phase, it said, process would include chiseling or rocks / boulders at six spots and the work would be started within two days after the grant of permission by Forest Department. Most such works are likely to be completed within one week.

“While efforts would be made to implement these works during the current year, the unpredictable weather conditions, which sometimes lead to early snowfall, could hamper the execution of works. The second phase works as also those works of phase one, which are not possible to be completed during this year, shall be completed during 2013?, the affidavit said, adding, “the Forest Department has been asked to expedite the forest clearances as per the intent and the recommendations of the SHPC”.

About the Pahalgam route and double tracking near the cave, the Pahalgam Development Authority has prepared three project reports in consultation with Tourism and Forest Departments. It three components are:  Improvement of track from Chandanwari base camp to Panchtarni, improvement of existing track from Panchtarni to holy cave and construction of separate track for pedestrians, ponies and palkies from lower base camp to holy cave.

“It is noteworthy that the area remains under snowbound till May every year and snow clearance is taken up in May by the PDA. Therefore, the execution of works will have to wait till snow clearance”, it said, adding, “the feasible course of action seems to be one of starting the execution of works immediately after the snow clearance operations are over. All out efforts will be made to complete it in 2013, as recommended by the SHPC”.

The state government and SASB have taken several important decisions including constitution of committees of top-level health experts to handle such untoward situation.

An Expert Medical Committee comprising three specialists nominated by the Union Health Ministry and one Specialist nominated by the state government has been constituted, the affidavit said, adding it would review the format of existing Compulsory Health Certificate and suggest suitable modifications as required.

The Health Department will finalize the list of institutions and authorized officers for issuance of the Compulsory Health Certificate. Other state governments and Union Health Ministry would provide list of reputed private medical institutions which may be authorized to issue Health Fitness Certificates.

Another committee will ensure medical facilities are rationally dispersed and relocated on the basis of critical assessments. Comprising the state secretary, Health, CEO SASB, director health services (Kashmir) and one senior officer each from Army, BSF, CRPF and ITBP will review the existing location of Medical Aid Centres and rationalize their location. Establishment of Indian System of Medicine camps would also be proposed.

The affidavit states the Union Health Ministry would facilitate timely arrangement for training of state’s doctors and paramedics in High Altitude Sickness Management. (With inputs from KNS)

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