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Jammu Kashmir

Posted at: Sep 12, 2018, 12:04 AM; last updated: Sep 12, 2018, 12:04 AM (IST)

Pilgrims’ progress made easy by Vaishno Devi board

From 67 lakh yatris in 2008, their number crossed 10-million mark in 2011 and 2012 | Infrastructure improved

Arteev Sharma

Tribune News Service

Katra, September 11

The Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board (SMVDSB), which is mandated to provide better management at the cave shrine nestled in the Trikuta hills of Reasi district, has taken a quantum leap in the past 10 years to meet the emerging requirements of pilgrims.

During the period, the board management strived hard to improve the facilities for the pilgrims and also promote the welfare of villages located in the vicinity of the shrine.

It is due to the concerted efforts of the shrine board that the number of yatris to the holy cave shrine has increased manifold. In 2008, 67.92 lakh pilgrims visited the shrine, which crossed the 10-million mark in 2011 and 2012. Last year, the yatra statistics stood at 81.78 lakh.

The board also invested heavily on infrastructure.

Tarakote Marg

The inauguration of the newly constructed the Rs 80-crore ramp track Tarakote Marg, an alternate 7.5-km track between Banganga and Adhkuwari, by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in May was a testimony to the board’s continuous efforts to make the yatra more pilgrim-friendly. The convenient new track was the brainchild of former Governor NN Vohra, who was also the chairman of the shrine board.

Ropeway projects

Two high-utility projects — Siar Dabri-Bhawan material ropeway and Bhawan to Bhairon passenger ropeway — were added to facilitate quick and eco-friendly transportation of material from Katra. The passenger ropeway, which is likely to commence next month, will enable pilgrims, particularly elderly and specially abled, to pay obeisance at the Bhaironji temple, which was earlier difficult due to a steep climb to an altitude of 6,600 feet. The ropeway has been constructed at a cost of Rs 60 crore.

Slope stabilisation project

In view of the incidents of shooting stones and landslides, the board undertook the implementation of the Rs 77-crore slope stabilisation project to protect, treat and stabilise 33 sites on the Trikuta hills which have been identified as most vulnerable from the point of view of enhancing the safety and security of pilgrims.

Sports complex

The shrine board has built a mega sports complex at a cost of Rs 11 crore having a capacity for more than 10,000 spectators, including 2,600 in a covered pavilion. It has a magnificent ground turf for organising track and field events as well as team sports such as football, handball, cricket, hockey and kabaddi.

Spiritual Growth Centre

It is one of the most prestigious infrastructure projects of the shrine board, which was inaugurated by then President Pratibha Patil in November 2011. It was established to acquaint pilgrims to the concept of the pilgrimage. It has facilities such as meditation hall, prayer hall, auditorium, library-cum-research centre, havan and ‘yagya shalla’.

Boost to education

The board has spent over Rs 680 crore to provide quality education and healthcare to benefit society at large. It has set up a full-fledged university costing around Rs 400 crore, Rs 300-crore superspeciality hospital, a Rs 16-crore college of nursing, and a Rs 15.5-crore Gurukul. The university has already made a mark in imparting education of high standards to 1,675 students from 23 states.

What stakeholders say

“We will remain indebted to former Governor NN Vohra for his contribution. He took personal interest in the infrastructural development of Katra town and the shrine. He had great plans for the development of Katra. Had he remained in office for a few more years, he would have changed the landscape of the town,” said Rakesh Wazir, president, Hotels and Restaurants’ Association, Katra.

Baldev Raj Sharma, former MLA, said, “In the past 10 years, the board has made all-out efforts to make the yatra more pilgrim-friendly. It was only possible because we had Mr Vohra as an able and astute administrator. He overhauled the entire system with great precision.”

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