Amarnath, Chardham to see a surge in Yatris despite terror threat

A record number of pilgrims are expected to participate in Amarnath and Chardham Yatras this year after the government improved infrastructure and security arrangements and reduced GST rates on helicopter charges from 12 to five per cent, even as reports spoke of heightened threat posed by terrorists who are set to infiltrate the yatra route.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has been keen to improve facilities for the Amarnath and Chardham Yatras, has upgraded the road infrastructure, encouraging tour organisers to increase services during the Annual Yatra.
With the Amarth pilgrimage in Jammu and Kashmir starting on Thursday, the centre has also taken unprecedented security measures to protect pilgrims during the 60-day pilgrimage to the holy cave shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva.
The CRPF is reported to have formed a special motorcycle squad as part of its efforts to ensure foolproof security during the Yatra.
Advance registrations for the Yatra has already crossed 2 lakh this year, partly driven by cheaper helicopter fares, helped in part by the Goods and Service Tax (GST) being implemented in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K).
With tax on this service down from 12 per cent to 5 per cent, a one-way chopper ride is available at Rs1,600. Nearly 40,000 pilgrims are reported to have purchased tickets to fly to the Amarnath shrine and flights for the first three weeks of the Yatra are already sold out, say reports.
Meanwhile, pilgrim flows in the ongoing Chardham Yatra have crossed 2-million mark now looks set to cross the record of nearly 2.2 million visitors to the four shrines in 2017. However, the numbers are way down the 6.3 lakh at Amarnath Yatris during the UPA regime in 2011.
Over 6.15 lakh pilgrims have visited Kedarnath Temple, one of the four shrines, since the season started on 29 April, compared to 4.7 lakh pilgrims here in the entire season last year.
At a recent PRAGATI review meeting, before the Chardham Yatra began, the PM had monitored all four temples – Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamnotri – and the infrastructure around them, through video footage from drones.
Considering the topography and the route, the CRPF has decided to form a special motorcycle squad as part of its security arrangements for the AmarnathYatra. These motorcycles while ensuring security, will also serve as mini ambulances.
Also,  the government has decided to monitor each vehicle carrying Amarnath pilgrims with radio frequency (RF) tag.
A joint control room will be set up for close coordination among different security agencies besides the Army, according to officials.
All vehicles carrying the Amarnath pilgrims will have one RF tag for its close monitoring for better security, an official said.
RF tag uses electromagnetic fields to automatically identify and track object attached to it. An RF tag attached to an automobile can be used to track its progress.
A joint control room will be set up for better coordination between Jammu and Kashmir Police, paramilitary forces and the Army to ensure security during the two-month-long pilgrimage to the cave shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva in the Himalayas in Jammu and Kashmir, the official said.
Additional 22,500 paramilitary personnel are expected to be deployed along the entire route of the Amarnath pilgrimage, for which multi-tier security arrangements will be put in place.
A total of around 40,000 personnel, comprising J&K Police, paramilitary, National Disaster Response Force and the Army, are likely to be deployed during this year's pilgrimage.
Tracking of pilgrims' movement through satellites, installation of jammers, CCTV cameras and bulletproof bunkers, deployment of dog squads and quick reaction teams will be part of the security drill along pilgrimage routes, another official said.
Doppler radar, which will provide weather update every two hours, will be deployed for the benefits of pilgrims besides deployment of the quick reaction teams of the NDRF.
According to the estimates of various security agencies, there are about 200 active terrorists in the Kashmir Valley and recent trends show that terrorists are getting more brazen in their attacks.