Baltal Base Camp, June 14: Snow and inclement weather have hit the setting up of free kitchen (langar) services at this Amarnath Yatra base camp in north Kashmir, organisers said Thursday.
‘I’ve been coming to Baltal for 14 years to set up the langar for the pilgrims but have never seen so much snow. We are unable to set up the langar because of accumulated snow on the ground,’ Ajay Kumar, a coordinator, told IANS.
Thousands of pilgrims come each year to this camp, 87 km from Srinagar, to start their pilgrimage to the Himalayan cave shrine of Amarnath.
The 14-km trek from here to the shrine passes over glaciers and treacherous mountains. Even a drizzle on the slippery trek is enough to halt the passage of the pilgrims.
‘I’ve been coming for 18 years. Never before have I seen such snow at the base camp. It is proving difficult to pitch tents and shift materials to set up the langar,’ said Phulwinder Singh, another coordinator.
Nearly a dozen trucks are removing the accumulated snow from the base camp. Earth movers are cutting through the frozen snow and moving the snow to trucks.
Despite the snow, Navin K. Chowdhary, chief executive officer of Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB), which manages the Amarnath Yatra, said the pilgrimage would start on schedule.
‘The governor, who heads SASB, visited the camp Tuesday along with a team of senior civil administration, police and army officials,’ he said.
‘Efforts are on to clear the route and we are confident that the pilgrimage will begin June 25,’ he said.
‘We are facing challenges from the weather which has not yet stabilised in the area,’ he said.
So far, more than 300,000 pilgrims have registered for the pilgrimage.
(Sheikh Qayoom can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)