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Amarnath yatra to begin on June 30
Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar
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April 11, 2007 23:46 IST

The two-month long annual pilgrimage to the Himalayan cave shrine of Amarnath is scheduled to begin on June 30 this year.

This year's yatra will begin on a happy note as the ice lingam has already started forming naturally inside the cave, nearly 13000 ft above sea level.

"The pilgrimage would start on June 30 and conclude on August 28 to coincide with Shravan Purnima (Raksha Bandhan) when the darshan of the fully formed lingam and the concluding puja would be held there," chief executive officer, Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board, Dr Arun Kumar told newsmen in Jammu on Wednesday.

The Kashmir valley has received an appreciable snowfall this year, though it occurred late in early spring.

Last year the chief mahant, Deependra Giri had alleged tampering with the ice lingam, which had triggered a major controversy and led to decline in the number of pilgrims to the cave shrine.

An inquiry by a retired judge of the state High Court, however, exonerated the SASB of any human tampering with the lingam.

"A recce of the snow-clad route has been conducted by a party of local workers and the restoration work will start soon after the snows melt," Kumar said.

Dr Kumar hoped that the yatra may once again touch the 4 lakh figure, which has by and large been recorded consecutively during the past three years.

He said that matching infrastructural facilities are being put in place to meet the requirements.

Dr Kumar, however, urged the people not to venture for the pilgrimage on difficult and rugged terrain before the yatra commences officially. "Safety of pilgrims is our prime concern," he said, adding, "Without proper security, track clearance and infrastructure it would be risky to embark on the pilgrimage."

Dr Kumar said that accommodation is being arranged for 1400 yatris in all camps with toilet, hot water and electricity. For this purpose SASB is raising 233 prefabricated single and double bed cottages at Baltal and other sites.

Like previous years, helicopter services are being operated this year also, mainly from Baltal.

"The aviation companies will provide insurance cover of Rs 7.50 lakhs for an adult and Rs 3.75 lakhs for a child or infant. The air tariff has further been reduced from Rs 7500 to Rs 5890 to and fro from Baltal to the holy cave and from Rs 20000 to Rs 18900 from Srinagar to the cave shrine and back."

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