PERMISSION TO ORGANISE LANGARS AND ALLOCATION OF SITE
We have observed in the past that the permission for organising Langar is given very late and site number/site plan is not allocated/attached along with permission. We suggest that the Permission to Organise Langars should be given atleast 60 days before the commencemence of yatra alongwith specified site number and the copy of site plan - so that langar organisations may plan to carry their materials in advance at pre-decided sites. Last year the permission to organiselangar was granted by The Director Tourism whereas no site was specified. The site number was given by the Dy. Commissioner concerned and that too only on visiting the D.C.'s Office. We suggest that site number should be allotted and incorporated within the permission letter, so as avoid inconvenience to the Non Govt. Organisations. The original permission letter along with site number & copy of site plan should be sent through Registered AD/Courier. Moreover, automatic permission without seeking an application should be granted to all the NGOs' who have been organising langar for the last many years.
We have observed that the procedure for registration of Yatries is very complicated and the number of Registration Centres opened by the J & K Tourism for the registration of Yatris is only 7 (seven), which is very meagre considering the size & population of the country. Moreover, the number of counters at Registration Centres are too less to cope up with the heavy rush. The process of registration of pilgrims should be started atleast 3 months before the commencement of yatra to avoid heavy rush & unnecessary harassment to the yatris. We suggest that Registration procedure should be simplified and Registration Centres should be opened at each & every district of the Country. This will enable the people living in different parts of India to have an easy access to these registration centres.We also request that on the spot registration should be done immediately and the number of registration counters should be increased - so that the Yatries may not have to wait for days to get their registration slip. Moreover, proper arrangement of seats, drinking water & toilets should be made for the convenience of yatris at the registration centres.
Last year, yatris were forced to face lot many hardships in completing the registration formalities.The devotees of Bhagwan Shiv Shankar Ji (Shri Amarnath Yatris) were lathi charged at Registration Centres, TRC, Jammu number of times.Moreover, they were forced to sleep on roads as all the hotel accommodation was full to its capacity.
We further suggest that registration of pilgrims should be done on line through Internet. This job should be entrusted to any reputed NGO. However, we offer our services for doing this job.It will not be out of place to mention here that we have already hosted our website on Shri Amarnath Yatra namely www.amarnathyatra.com. Ours was the first ever website on Shri Amarnath Yatra and thousands of pilgrims/devotees have already visited our website.
We have observed in the past that there is no arrangement of Pucca Shelters on the yatra route from Baltal/Chandanwari to Holy Cave and only temporary tented accommodation is being provided by the Non Government Organisations. In case of inclement weather - the rainy water seeps through these tents and almost all the belongings of Yatris and Langar Organisations become wet and it becomes almost impossible for the Yatris to survive in this utmost cold weather - as happened in 1996. In order to avoid re-occurrence of such tragedy, it is suggested that the J&K Government should construct Pucca Shelters in sufficient numbers at all the halts enroute Yatra.
Keeping in view the above para - we strongly demand that the Langar Organisations should be allotted land by the State Government for the construction of Pucca Shelters FREE OF COST or at a nominal price. Anyhow, we are thankful to the J&K Govt. and Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) for deciding to allot the land to the NGOS' for 10 years Management Contract as this will enable the Langar Organisations to construct Pucca Shelters for the safe & comfortable stay of yatris enroute yatra and base camps. Moreover, a specific site must be provided to the NGOS' at the earliest. We suggest that an approved uniform design of shelters for all the NGOs' should be provided by the J&K Govt./SASB.
It has been observed in the past that all the NGOs, who are organising langar at higher altitudes discontinue their services 4-5 days earlier than the actual concluding date of the yatra because during concluding days ponies are not available to transport their material back to their base camps. During the concluding days the security forces start sending their men and material to their base camps and they forcibly engaged all the ponies available on the spot. Therefore, there is no pony left for the NGOs. If all the NGOs leave earlier than the concluding date, then too much difficulties are rendered to the yatris because of non-availability of food, accommodation & medicines etc. The security forces may please be instructed not to engage ponies before the actual concluding date of the yatra so that the NGOs stay at their respective places to serve the yatris and they do not have any problem in trasnporting the material back to their base camps and security forces shall be last to leave their place.
We have observed that last year, the rates fixed were very high. For example, the rate fixed for L.P.G. refill was more than Rs.900/- each at Panchtarni whereas in 1998 the rate was approx.Rs. 500/- and in 1997 the same was Rs. 300/-. The rate of more than Rs.900/- for one refill of LPG cannot be justified in any manner whatsoever. Similarly, the rate for kerosene oil was Rs.21/- at Panchtarni whereas the rate of the same was Rs.4.50 per litre at Baltal. Other items such as Wheat floor, Rice, sugar, fire wood etc. were also fixed on higher side. We suggest that the rates should be fixed reasonably as the NGOs use these items for the benefit of the yatris. On enquiry, we have reliably come to know that the charges are fixed on the higher side because the materials are transported from the Chandanwari side instead of Baltal side (which is shorter route) and transportation cost is added on the basis of pony/pithoo/labour charges from Chandanwari instead of Baltal. We suggest that the material should be transported to Panchtarni & Holy Cave from Baltal side where the Pony/pithoo/labour charges are less than half in comparison to pony/pithoo/labour charges from Chandanwari side. In case our this demand is accepted, the prices will automatically come down. Moreover, due to higher rates the sale of above said items remains very meagre, which can be verified from the records of Food & Supply Deptt., thus resulting in huge loss to the State Govt. as the material has to be transported back.
We have been reliably given to understand that Govt. of India has been providing rice & wheat/wheat flour for Amarnath Yatra at BPR rates to J&K Govt. in thousands of tons, but the same is not being available to the yatris/NGOs at BPR rates. We suggest you to ensure that the above ration materials are supplied at BPR rates to the NGOs/yatris.
We have observed in the past that the NGOs as well as yatris have to face lot of inconvenience & hardships in the absence of one officer who can solve the problems of NGOs as well as yatris. We suggest that one such Liaison Officer must be appointed at each & every camping site, who should act as a bridge between NGOs/yatris and various departments of the Govt. linked with Shri Amarnathji Yatra.,/div>
Last year i.e. in yatra 2001, rent was charged from NGOs who have organised langar at Baltal - by Tehsildar Kangan, which is quite un-desirable & unjustified. We suggest that the charging of rent from NGOs should be done away with.
Last year, pilgrims in general and NGOs in particular were harassed at Zakura Check Post by the J&K Police and the Distt. Administration. The pilgrims holding valid registration slips from Baltal route were denied to pass Zakura Check Post and were told to go through the Pahalgam route. Those pilgrims who insisted upon going via Baltal route were unduly detained for a large period of time before being allowed to proceed further.Moreover, even the office bearers of the NGOS' were denied to pass through Zakura Check Post and the registration slips of langar staff duly issued by the J&K Tourism were torn and the officers said that these are not valid yatra registration slips - for the reasons best known to the concerned officials. We suggest that pilgrims as well as NGOS' are not subjected to this type of illegal harassment and inconvenience.
We have observed in the past that Potable water is not being sufficiently provided by the State Government to the Yatries and Langar Organisations. Last year, we tried to provide filtered water to the yatris and for this purpose we purchased Eureka Forbes Aqua Guard Filters, but unfortunately they did not work properly due to the blockage due to small stones which came along with water. We therefore suggest that spring water (potable) from higher reaches should be provided to each Langar organisation as well Yatris enroute yatra and base camps.
Subsidised bus fares should be charged from Yatries travelling from Jammu to Pahalgam/Chandanwari & Jammu to Srinagar/Sonamarg/Baltal. We have observed in the past that Taxi Fares/Bus Fares/Ponies charges - Pithoo (Labourer) were being fixed on very higher side but practically those yatris who bargained, pay much lesser rates and those who did not bargain were made to pay higher charges.
We have observed in the past that there is no proper arrangement being made for clean and separate toilets for Ladies and Gents. We have experienced that pits are dug and plastic sheet partitions are made but the front side is remains open. Moreover, neither the pits are cleaned nor anything is sprayed or put on to avoid foul smell. Also the Govt. has never made any provision of bathrooms. We suggest that clean and separate toilets for ladies and gents and in adequate numbers with solid partitions and also neat & clean bathrooms atleast for lady yatris should be provided to yatris at Base Camps & enroute Holy Cave. Last year, although the toilets were under construction, but the construction work was not completed till the last date of darshan because the construction work was started late. We request that this time the toilets and bathrooms should be made ready before the commencemence of yatra, 2002.
We have noted in the past that J&K Government has fixed the number of pilgrims and in an effort to ensure that the total number of yatris does not exceed the fixed number. The J&K Tourism department/J&K Govt. resort to illegal, un-democratic & unjustified measures on the plea of SEN Committee recommendations. This results in unnecessary mental/physical harassment of the devotees and their religious sentiments also get hurt in the process. We kindly request your goodself that there should be no restriction on the number of pilgrims and instead Government should make adequate arrangements for the yatra of any number of pilgrims. Ours is a democratic country with the population of more than 100 crores and every citizen of India has constitutional right to perform the yatra of his/her religion. In case, allowing of un-restricted number of yatris is impossible, the number fixed per day should be increased in a phased manner. We suggest that this year the number of yatris per day should be increased to 6500 i.e. 4500 from Pahalgam - Candanwari and 2000 from Baltal. Next year, the number should be raised to 7500 and so on. We further suggest that registration procedure should be done away with finally, may be at a later stage and yatra slip system should be adopted as is being done at Shri Mata Vaishnoo Devi yatra.
We have come to know that on the spot/current registration has been dis-allowed this year. We suggest that this decision should be withdrawn and on the spot/current registration of pilgrims must be done, as it is far more convenient for the pilgrims to performa the yatra after on the spot/current registration, whereas it becomes very difficult for the pilgrims to first go to the registration centre for obtaining registration slip and then returning back to his place of his residence and then again going to perform yatra. For example a person from Shimla/Manali/Chandigarh/Rajpura wants to perform yatra. First of all he will have to go to Jammu to obtain registration slip and then come back to his place of his residence i.e. Simla/Manali/Chandigarh/Rajpura and then again he will have to go to Jammu to perform yatra. Is this fair? We hope that you must agree with our genuine request and will allow on the spot/current registration for pilgrims.
Adequate arrangements of ponies & coolies should be made and reasonable rates should be fixed to ensure smooth performing of yatra by the pilgrims.
We are extremely thankful to the J&K Government for opening STD/PCO'S enroute Amarnath Yatra, but we have observed that there is plenty of rush on the PCO'S and the yatris have to wait for hours in queue to make the calls. We kindly request to increase the number of PCO'S at each halt to atleast 10 PCOs to facilitate the pilgrims to remain in contact with their family members. Moreover, computerised billing of calls must be made compulsory so as to ensure that yatris are not over charged.
We request you to provide temporary telephone connections to Langar Organisations, so as to enable them to remain in regular contact with their base camps.
We have experienced in the past that the medical facilities provided were insufficient and there was lack of proper medical equipments. Therefore, it is kindly requested that adequate medical facilities be provided alongwith qualified doctors at base camps & enroute yatra so that any type of casuality can be avoided.
We have observed in past so many years that no provision of Lady Doctors has ever been made for the female yatris. It is pertinent to mention here that about 40% yatris are female.Therefore, it is necessary to depute Lady Doctors in all the medical camps arranged by the J & K Government.
It is a matter of joy that SASB has been constituted and our long pending demand has been accepted, but we have been requesting that representation should be given to NGOs in the SASB, so as to enable them to solve the problems being faced by the pilgrims as well as NGOs as the NGOs are aware of the problems at the grass root level. We suggest that atleast 5 members should be nominated on the SASB from the different NGOs after ascertaining the credential of the NGOs.
We have observed in the past that there is no provision of Electricity/Power supply enroute yatra and yatris have to face lot of inconvenience due to non-availability of power supply.Moreover, the Langar Organisations have to make their own arrangements for the generation of Electricity/Power supply, which is quite difficult on this tough terrain, as in case of break down in the Gensets there is no availability of Mechanic and Spare Parts. Anyhow, we are thankful to the J&K Govt. and SASB for assuring to provide Mechanics enroute yatra at nominal charge. We further suggest that this basic and very essential requirement should be fulfilled by the J&K Government.
We have come to know through press that in 2000 the J&K Government had decided to introduce Helicopter service to aged, physically handicapped and sick pilgrims for visiting Vaishno Devi Temple and we request you to provide similar service for Amarnath yatris.
24. AGENDA AND MINUTES OF MEETINGS BEING CONDUCTED BY THE JAMMU & KASHMIR TOURISM & SASB WITH LANGAR ORGANISATIONS
We have observed in the past that the metings with the Langar Organisations are called by the State Govt. at a very short notice and that too without any agenda. In order to make these meetings fruitful, we suggest that the intimation of these meetings should be given sufficiently in advance alongwith agenda and on the spot decisions should be taken. Minutes of the meeting should be recorded and circulated to Langar Organisations within a reasonable time frame. Last year no such meeting was held by the J&K Govt. with the NGOs' engaged in organising langars. Only one such meeting was held and that too with a person who does not organise any langar anywhere and has created a self styled body which is non representative in character. We suggest that whenever such meeting(s) are held, each and every NGO should be invited. The meetings with the NGOS' should be held in the month of the January/February every year i.e. before holding the meetings of J&K Govt./SASB and the views of the NGOS'should be considered in the meetings of the J&K Govt. and SASB. Moreover, NGOS' should also be invited in the meetings of J&K Govt. & SASB, so as to provide them (NGOS) the opportunity to present their views.
We have observed in the past that ration and fuel material being supplied by the Food & Supplies department of the State Government to the yatris and Langar Organisations are inadequate & short in supply. We suggest that adequate arrangements should be made for the supply of Ration & Fuel material for yatris and Langar Organisations.
We are of the considered opinion that the Yatra route from Baltal/Chandanwari to Holy Cave is too NARROW and MUDDY. Keeping in view the increasing number of yatris every year - we suggest that the above stated routes should be widened enough and concrete road should be constructed on the pattern of SHRI MATA VAISHNO DEVI ROUTE - so as to avoid any loss of life of the yatris.
In order to avoid any mis-hap during the yatra, we suggest the entire yatra route i.e. from Chandanwari & Baltal to Holy Cave should be properly fenced with concrete/stone and steel railings/grills/pipes. In case fencing of entire route is not possible immediately this year, atleast those portions where the track is narrow & slippery - must be fenced before the commencement of yatra this year (2002).
We have observed in the past that the roads from Ranga to Baltal and Pahalgam to Chandanwari are NARROW and MUDDY. As and when it rains - which normally happens during the yatra days - these NARROW and MUDDY roads become slippery and it becomes very difficult, sometimes rather impossible for the vehicles and yatris to move on these roads. We strongly suggest that these roads should be widened and metalled well before the commencement of Yatra.
We have observed in the past that the condition of roads from Anantnag to Pahalgam and Srinagar to Ranga via Sonamarg remain in bad condition at the time of yatra. It is very dangerous and risky for the yatris and vehicles to move on these roads. Sometimes, the repair/black topping work is being done during the Yatra period. It creates traffic problem and takes lot of time to reach the destination. We suggest that the construction/black topping work of these roads must be completed well before the commencement of Yatra.
The Excise & Taxation Department of the J&K Govt. is charging Toll Tax at different places from yatris who are travelling in their own conveyance and the vehicles carrying langar material, which is uncalled for. This should be done away with and no Toll Tax should be charged from yatra & langar vehicles at any station/barrier.
The staff of the Excise & Taxation Deptt. at Lakhanpur Border unnecessarily harass the vehicles carrying langar material on one pretext or the other even when they are having requisite permission. This harassment is being done to exhort extra money apart from the Toll Tax from the langar vehicles. In this regard, we were assured during the meeting held on 21.05.2001 that matter shall be taken up with the concerned deptt. and there will be no harassment in the future. We once again request to take up the matter with the Excise & Taxation Deptt. and it must be ensured that no vehicle carrying langar material is harassed.
Large number of innocent pilgrims & other people were brutally massacred by extremists at Pahalgam on 1st August, 2000 and last year also one such incident took place at Sheshnag. These type of incidents had exposed the loop-holes in the security arrangements made by the J&K government. We demand that fool proof security arrangements should be made and it must be ensured that such type of incidents do not occur in future.
It is a matter of great concern that yatris who were waiting for completing the registration formalities were lathi charged by the J&K Police at Registration Centres, Tourist Centre, Jammu during Shri Amarnath Yatra 2000 & 2001. This situation occured due to ineffeciency & inadequate arrangement of J&K Govt. It is suggested that appropriate arrangements should be made to avoid re-occurance of such type of ugly incidents.
In the past yatra and langar vehicles were not being allowed to reach Udhampur via above route inspite of the fact that this route is shorter by more than 50 Kms. We suggest that this route should be opened for yatra as well as langar vehicles as on the one hand this will enable the yatris & langar vehicles to reach Udhampur early and on the other hand the unnecessary heavy traffic at Jammu shall be avoided.
Keeping in view the above para, we suggest that base camp of Nagrota should be shifted to Udhampur as Udhampur is the common place for yatris - whether they go from Jammu side or from Samba/Mansar/Udhampur road.
We have been informed that base camp of Pahalgam has been shifted to Nunwan due to security reasons. In this regard, we have to state that we have no objection in the shifting of above base camp. We suggest that even if this site is un-secured, the base camp may be shifted to some other place keeping in view the security aspects, but it must be ensured that Bus/Car Stand is situated very near to the langar sites, so that the yatris are not forced to cover a long distance on foot and there is a fool proof security arrangements.
Government should allow Langar organisations to take their materials to site of langar without any interruption. We have experienced in the past that langar organisations find it very difficult to carry their langar material to higher altitude near Holy Cave or Panchtarni. Therefore, we kindly request that langar materials should be transported by the Government helicopters at a subsidised or nominal transportation charges.
With a heavy heart, we would like to bring to your kind notice that Mr. Parbhat Singh, Superintendent of Police (Yatra), who reached Panchtarni along with Chharri Mubarak on 03.08.2001 came to our bhandara in a heavily drunkard condition (under the influence of liquor) on 04.08.2001 at about 10.30PM and committed the following atrocities and that too without any provocation and reasoning :-
He straight away tried to pull down the office tent of the bhandara, where the trust President, Rajan Gupta and Bhandara Incharge, Mr. Ramesh Bhatia were sitting. He abused and used very vulgar & filthy language. He pushed and manhandled President & Bhandara Incharge. He threatned of dire consequences to the office bearers of our organisation. He also went to another Bhandara namely Om Shiv Shakti Sewa Mandal (Regd.) of Cheeka & Delhi and abused & manhandled the office bearers of the said bhandara. He snatched and throwed away the food plates from sewadars & yatris, who were having their dinner. He continued his rampage and pulled down the tent of J&K Fire Service adjoining our bhandara. All this was done in the presence of 7 Jawans & 1 Inspector of the CRPF, who were deputed by the Commandant of the CRPF,Mr. Daya Ram for the security of the Office bearers, Sewadars of both the bhandaras and Yatries. Apart from the above, the Sub Inspector and Asstt. Sub Inspector along with few Jawans of the J&K Police were also present at the time of incident. As this was not enough to satisfy his ego, he again anhandled the office bearers of our organisation and lathi charged the sewadars in the presence of Mr. Karamjit Singh - Yatra Officer in the morning of 05.08.2001 when the sewadars of both of the bhandaras were raising peaceful protest in a democratic manner. In nutshell, he behaved in such a manner as he was dealing with criminals or militants totally ignoring the fact that we the sewadars of Yatries of Almighty Lord Bhole Nath, who have left our homes for about 40 days and that too without any financial consideration. He created such a terror that no one could sleep for whole of night. It was in fact a frightful night. He was not ready to listen to anyone despite repeated requests by the Office Bearers and Sewadars of both the bhandaras. He grossly misused his official position. Mr. Karamjit Singh-Yatra Officer, in whose presence Mr.Parbhat Singh, S.P. (Yatra) has mis-behaved and lathi charged on 05.08.2001, apologised and assured to report the matter to the higher authorities and also assured sternest possible action against Mr. Parbhat Singh, S.P. (Yatra). It will not be out of place to mention here that our above said two bhandaras were the only ones, which were present in the whole of the Panchtarni for providing the boarding & lodging facilities to the yatris upto the last moment, as all the other bhandaras and even private tents (Camping Agencies) had left Panchtarni much earlier. We would also like to add here that there was no reason at all for provocation. All the para-military, Military forces, Officers of the J&K Police and other officials of the Govt. departments posted at Panchtarni are aware of this incident. This type of mis-behaviour and that too from the rank of Superintendent of Police is un-expected, un-desirable, un- justified and un-called for and that too in a drunkard position, at duty and that too at a Holy place where consumption of liquor is banned both morally and legally. We suggest that sternest possible action must be taken against the said official and necessary directions may kindly be issued so as to ensure that such type of incidents does not occur in future.
BHOLE BHANDARI CHARITABLE TRUST