The pilgrimage will start on June 25 and will conclude on August 2, coinciding with the Rakhsha Bandnan. The shrine got a record 634 thousand pilgrims in 2011 which was a huge jump over 458 thousand pilgrims that it got in 2010.
Reduction in the duration of yatra was suggested by a sub committee led by Sri Sri Ravi Shanker. "Consequent to detailed deliberations, the Board accepted the recommendations of the Sri Sri Ravi Shankar sub-committee and directed the CEO of the Board to timely commence the registration of pilgrims and ensure the effective management of the yatra which would commence on June 25 and conclude on Raksha Bandhan on August 2," a SASB spokesperson said.
It said that despite all the efforts the tracks to the cave from both the sides (Pahalgam and Baltal) could not be readied before the end of June given the weather conditions and the snow accumulations. However, the SASB said in case the tracks become ready for use before June 25, the Board will opt for on-line registration and spot registration and advance the pilgrimage.
Duration of yatra has remained a highly controversial issue. During the pre-turmoil days the pilgrimage was a fortnight long affair for the Kahmiri Pandits. At the peak of militancy as some outfit started issuing threats to the yatra, it resulted in surge in numbers from across India. With the help of the security forces stationed in state who would go for the pilgrimage ahead of schedule (termed 'service yatra' in official parlance), the pilgrimage become a full one month affair.
During the gubernatorial regime of Lt Gen (retd) S K Sinha the controversy became a crisis. State government wanted to retain the pilgrimage to a month and the governor (as head of SASB) wanted it to be a two-month affair. In 2005 the two sides finally agreed on 45 days which in later years become a 60 days affair. 2012 will be the first year when it will be for 37 days because of the practical difficulties that various state agencies face in making the arduous tracks ready for civilian movement. Apart from thousands of soldiers, paramilitary men and the cops, state government posts around 5000 people across the tracks for offering various facilities to the pilgrims during the pilgrimage.
Another SASB decision will make intending pilgrim to submit a fitness certificate at the time of the registration. The decision was taken because of large number of deaths during the yatra, mostly because of the cardiac arrest. While there were only 45 deaths in 2009 and 68 in 2010, the last year's pilgrimage recorded 107 deaths.
The pre-condition of furnishing a health certificate to be issued by a Registered Medical Practitioner (RMP) and not a doctor at the time of registration was also suggested by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).
Source: India Times