Today: Jun 25, 2024

Need to deal with trend of youngsters visiting Vaishno Devi on New Year: Minister

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Katra: Innovative measures are required to deal with the trend of youngsters visiting the Vaishno Devi shrine on New Year, Union minister Jitendra Singh said on Saturday, as he arrived here to take stock of the situation following a stampede that left 12 devotees dead.

The Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office visited the cave shrine atop the Trikuta hills in Reasi district and also met injured devotees undergoing treatment at the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Narayana Superspeciality Hospital at Kakriyal.

“A probe has been ordered by the (J&K) government. Police have taken adequate measures, but we will discuss what else can be done (for safety of pilgrims),” the minister told reporters at the hospital after inquiring about the health of the injured devotees.

Jitendra Singh, who was accompanied by Director General of Police (DGP) Dilbag Singh, said in the past few years, a trend has started with a large number of young people preferring to come for the Yatra on the first day of the year.

“Traditionally, devotees used to come on festival days like Navratras, Dussehra and Deepavali. But this is a new trend, and we have to take measures accordingly,” he said, adding, “We will talk about innovation and technology to find some solution to this.”

The minister said online ‘Darshan’, LED screens for ‘Aarti’ (prayers) and other similar measures already in practice at the Tirupati Balaji temple could be replicated here for better management.

“When there is heavy rush and people are eager to visit and take part in the prayers on the same day of the New Year, such measures could be very useful,” he said, and suggested a sustained campaign and counselling for pilgrims.

Singh said sometimes, the administration faces problems when there is much enthusiasm among devotees, and there is also a border line for the restrictions.

Meanwhile, a senior government official said that the pilgrimage is going on smoothly with strict adherence to standard operating procedures (SOPs), including COVID-19 guidelines, despite a stampede that claimed 12 lives and left over a dozen injured.

Divisional Commissioner, Jammu, Raghav Langer said bodies of four victims of the stampede were dispatched to their native places, while the process to send the rest of the bodies was in progress.

Langer, along with Additional Director General of Police (ADGP) Mukesh Singh, visited Katra – the base camp for pilgrims visiting the Vaishno Devi shrine – to take stock of the situation.

“The (Vaishno Devi) Yatra has resumed (after the stampede) and is going on smoothly,” the divisional commissioner told reporters at Katra as the committee visited the town to begin its probe.

On complaints of mismanagement and violation of COVID-19 guidelines, the officer said the Yatra is in progress with strict adherence to the SOPs.

On the reasons that led to the stampede, Langer said the LG has ordered a high-level probe.

“The committee has started its work and will share the details as the probe progresses,” he said.

Langer said the administration and the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board have released helpline numbers to facilitate family members of visiting pilgrims who wanted to get in touch with their dear ones.

The divisional commissioner said bodies of all deceased persons have been identified, and relatives of 10 have already been contacted so that the bodies can be dispatched to their home towns.

“We are dispatching the bodies of the deceased to their home towns with full respect. Two bodies have already been dispatched to Haryana and Nowshera in Rajouri district (J&K). Two more bodies were also sent off to Delhi,” he said.

The divisional commissioner said the condition of all the injured persons is “stable”.

“Out of 15 injured admitted to the Mata Vaishno Devi Narayana Superspeciality Hospital at Kakriyal, four were discharged and the rest are stable,” Langer, who along with other members of the committee visited the hospital to enquire about the condition of the pilgrims, said.

He said the priority of the administration is to provide the best possible treatment to the injured. “The condition of all the injured is stable and a team of doctors are monitoring them,” he added.

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