New Delhi, July 23: The Supreme Court was Monday shocked over the death of another 10 pilgrims in the past three days on way to the Amarnath cave shrine in Jammu and Kashmir and directed the central and state governments to improve medical aid.
“It is a very sad thing. Within three days, the toll has gone up from 87 to 97. We are worried that more people should not die,” the court observed.
The apex court bench of Justice B.S. Chauhan and Justice Swatanter Kumar said that the medical facilities at Baltal should be augmented and made three times of what was available at present.
Expressing concern over the high number of deaths during the annual pilgrimage, the court said: “At least in this session no more deaths should take place.”
The court directed the state government to take help from other states and union territories, including Chandigarh, to improve medical facilities for pilgrims.
The court said that a high-powered committee that was set up July 20, will visit the shrine when the yatra is on. The court said that the yatra will not stop during the panel’s visit.
The apex court set up the committee, headed by the Jammu and Kashmir governor, to study reasons for the growing number of deaths of pilgrims during the yatra.
In another direction passed Monday, the court said that instead of iron grills that surround the holy shrine, transparent glass or fiber glass be put so as to protect the ice stalagmite structure – believed by devotees to symbolize the mythological powers of Lord Shiva – from heat.
“Iron rails (around the cave shrive) serve no purpose. Firstly they obstruct the darshan view of the yatris and secondly they are not safe and in fact lets in the human heat resulting in the melting of the shivalingam,” the court said.
Taking suo motu cognisance of reports of the deaths of pilgrims who make the trek to the high-altitude cave shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva, Justice B.S. Chauhan and Justice Swatanter Kumar had July 20 said that the panel would visit the place to have a first hand account of the situation.
Solicitor General Rohinton Nariman is assisting the court in the matter.
“Every day we hear someone dies. The high rate of mortality is undisputed,” the court had said.
The court noted that the approach path leading to the shrine was very narrow with pilgrims moving either on foot, horse-backs or in palanquins.
The pilgrims use both the north Kashmir Baltal and the south Kashmir Pahalgam route to reach the Himalayan cave shrine at 13,000 feet which houses an ice stalagmite.