An aerial survey of the Baltal-Amarnath holy cave route does not reveal any road widening or construction work being undertaken by the Jammu and Kashmir government in the ecologically fragile Himalayan region as alleged by hardline Hurriyat Conference.
A group of journalists was flown by the state government in a helicopter on the Balatal-Panjtarni-Holy Cave route for a first-hand account of the condition of the track leading to the 3880-metre high cave, which attracts lakhs of pilgrims from across the country every year.
The aerial survey was facilitated by the state government to counter Hurriyat Conference leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who had claimed that construction material has been dumped along the routes to the Amarnath Cave for creating permanent facilities, including a motorable road, for the yatris.
There seemed to be no changes in the track from Baltal to the cave shrine as was seen before the end of the annual yatra in August this year.
As the helicopter flew low, very close to the track, there was very little human movement noticeable in the area between Baltal and Sangam and none beyond that. The area around the holy cave is snow-bound.
Geelani has threatened to launch an agitation if the state government did not shelve its plans, as claimed by the separatist leader, to construct the road.
The hardline Hurriyat leader has also claimed that he had photographic evidence about construction material which had been dumped along the routes following a direction of the Supreme Court.
The Court had earlier this year taken suo motu cognizance of high number of deaths of Amarnath pilgrims and directed the state government to improve the condition of the tracks and provide necessary healthcare and other facilities to pilgrims for bringing down casualties.
Geelani has also called for disbanding of the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) and handing over the management of the Yatra to Kashmiri Pandits besides limiting the number of pilgrims. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had offered a helicopter to the separatist leader for getting a first-hand view of the condition of the tracks.
Omar has also ruled out construction of any road to the holy cave or permanent facilities. He, however, said a sewerage treatment plant was needed to ensure that the pollution caused by the human movement during the yatra period is dealt with scientifically for protecting the environment.