Press Trust of india

Sub-committee set up on rehabilitation of mule owners at Vaishno Devi: J&K to SC

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New Delhi, Aug 30:  The Jammu and Kashmir government today told the Supreme Court that a sub-committee has been set up to deal with the issues relating to the rehabilitation of mule owners operating on Katra-Vaishno Devi shrine track in Jammu.

The state told a bench of Justices Madan B Lokur, S Abdul Nazeer and Deepak Gupta that the sub-committee of the state advisory council had also convened a meeting on August 16 in which representatives of the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board and mule owners were heard.

Advocate Shoeb Alam, representing Jammu and Kashmir, placed before the court an affidavit containing details about setting up of the sub-committee in which three advisors to the Governor and chief secretary of the state are members.

He told the bench that the sub-committee was scheduled to meet again today in Srinagar and after considering all aspects, the panel would make recommendations to the state advisory council.

Alam said the representation by activist Gauri Maulekhi, who had earlier filed a plea in the National Green Tribunal (NGT) seeking removal of horses and mules from the path to the shrine, would also be considered by the committee.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the shrine board, said the board has given its representation to the sub-committee during the meeting.

The counsel for Maulekhi said they have already given their representation to the state.

The bench posted the matter for hearing on September 18, after Alam said the sub-committee was likely to make its recommendations within two weeks.

The state government had earlier told the court that a state advisory council would consider the rehabilitation plan prepared last October in its totality, along with all other stakeholders, including representatives of mule owners.

The shrine board had said that around 4,600 mules were operating there and the board was ensuring cleaning of the track.

The apex court had earlier taken note of the problem of pollution at Vaishno Devi shrine in Jammu and the surrounding areas and had made it clear that Jammu and Kashmir government and shrine board would have to “protect and preserve” both. The NGT had earlier capped the number of visitors to the shrine at 50,000 per day.

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