Free insurance cover for pilgrims is a new feature added to the annual pilgrimage to the holy cave shrine of Amarnath this year. The pilgrimage schedule was announced by the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board in Srinagar on Tuesday according to which the two-month long yatra begins on July 1 to conclude on August 24.
The insurance scheme, would also cover accompanying labourers and ponywallas, funds for which have been provided by the state government. A spokesman of the SASB said that the scheme would provide accidental insurance cover of Rs.one lakh to each registered pilgrim free of cost. "For this purpose the board has concluded an agreement with the New India Assurance Company Limited. Last year, a yatri opting for an insurance cover was required to pay a sum of Rs. 24 at the time of registration."
The spokesman said that each pilgrim has to register himself for the yatra at the designated registration counters setup in various branches of the Jammu and Kashmir bank and would start from June 5. "For effective security arrangements, no yatri will be allowed to enter or proceed beyond the base camps unless he is in possession of a valid yatra permit for a specified date and route," he added.
Another positive feature announced by the board for this year's yatra is lowering of the helicopter fares from the two base camps of Pahalgam in south Kashmir and Baltal in north Kashmir. "The helicopter services for the yatris who wish to avail of such facilities would be available on Baltal--Panjtarni-Baltel and Pahalgam--Panjtarni--Pahalgam. The one way fare for Baltal--Panjtarni and Pahalgam--Panjtarni has been fixed at Rs. 2425 and Rs. 3800 respectively. Children, between the age of 2-12 years, will be required to pay half the price. The booking of helicopter seats would commence shortly."