Over 33,000 people have so far registered themselves for the annual pilgrimage to the cave shrine of Amarnath in south Kashmir, officials said on Sunday.
The devotees are making a beeline for designated bank branches to secure a permit for undertaking the journey to the cave shrine in Lidder valley of south Kashmir Himalayas and paid obeisance to the naturally-formed ice-Shivlingam.
The 43-day yatra is scheduled to start on June 30 after the coronavirus pandemic enforced break of two years.
“As many as 33,795 pilgrims have registered for the yatra till Saturday,” Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB), Nitishwar Kumar told PTI.
Kumar, who is personally monitoring the arrangements, said 22,229 pilgrims have been registered through online mode and 11,566 through offline mode (banks).
During the 43-day yatra, the journey to the cave shrine will begin from the twin routes — the traditional 48-km from Nunwan to the cave shrine from Pahalgam in south Kashmir’s Anantnag, and 14-km shorter but steep Baltal route in Ganderbal district of central Kashmir.
The government, this year, is also introducing a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) system for the pilgrims to track their movement en-route to ensure their well-being.
Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB), which manages the annual pilgrimage, has designated 566 branches across the country for the registration of the pilgrims, in addition to the facility on its website.
According to SASB, no one below the age of 13 years or above the age of 75 years, and no woman with more than six week’s pregnancy, shall be registered for the yatra.
The registration has been going on at Punjab National Bank (PNB) branches in Rehari, Katra, Reasi, Akhnoor and Samba in Jammu and Kashmir besides 316 other branches across the country, officials said.
They said the pilgrims have to submit an application, compulsory health certificate from SASB-designated hospitals, four photographs and a fee of Rs 120.
However, those who have registered for the yatra last year, but could not undertake the pilgrimage have to deposit only Rs 20 as fees, the official said, adding that those pilgrims who have crossed 75 years of age would be refunded Rs 100 which have been deposited as registration fee with the application last year after depositing the permit slip.
Besides PNB, the registration is also being done at designated branches of Jammu and Kashmir Bank, YES bank and State Bank of India.
Officials further said the registration and issue of yatra permit is being done on a first come-first-serve basis for the yatra, which will culminate on the day of Raksha Bandhan (August 11).
The Amarnath Yatra was cancelled midway in 2019 ahead of abrogation of Article 370 in August that year, while only a symbolic yatra was observed during the past two years due to the outbreak of the pandemic.
During this year’s yatra, SASB has decided to put in place a daily route-wise pilgrims ceiling to 10,000, excluding those travelling by helicopters.
The board has also decided to extend the free-of-cost battery car service for the pilgrims at the 2.75 km-long Baltal to Domel stretch.