Amid multi-tier security cover, the first batch of pilgrims for the annual Amarnath Yatra left from Jammu's Bhagwati Nagar base camp today.
Till now nearly 2 lakh pilgrims from across the country have registered themselves for the yatra to the cave shrine in the south Kashmir Himalayas.
The pilgrims, including sadhus, have started arriving in Jammu from various parts of the country. The first batch of yatris will leave for the twin base camps of Baltal and Pahalgam in Kashmir, in a fleet of vehicles under tight security in the early hours, officials said.
They will reach the base camps of Baltal in Ganderbal and Nunwan-Pahalgam in Anantnag districts in Kashmir later in the day. The pilgrims would start their onward journey to the 3,880 metre high cave shrine by foot, the next day, marking the commencement of the pilgrimage.
The yatra is scheduled to conclude on August 26 coinciding with the 'Raksha Bandhan' festival.
Inspector General of Police, Jammu, S D Singh Jamwal said, "All arrangements are in place to ensure smooth and peaceful pilgrimage, which is a symbol of brotherhood and communal harmony."
He said security forces are fully alert and they have taken adequate measures to thwart nefarious designs of anti-national elements and their mentors from across the border.
Security officials said 1.96 lakh pilgrims have so far registered themselves for the yatra, which will for the first time see the use of radio frequency (RF) tags on Amarnath- bound vehicles and CRPF motorcycle squads in action.
Security arrangements around the base camps, temples, railway stations, bus stands and other crowded places here have been strengthened, the officials said.
This year, the government has decided to monitor each vehicle carrying Amarnath pilgrims with radio frequency (RF) tag and to extend the validity of temporary prepaid mobile connections taken by pilgrims from seven days to 10 days.
Around 40,000 security personnel from Jammu and Kashmir Police, paramilitary, National Disaster Response Force and the Army, have been being deployed for this year's pilgrimage, the officials said.
A total of 2.60 lakh pilgrims offered prayers at the shrine last year.
Considering the carrying capacity of the existing tracks and other available infrastructure in the pilgrimage area, Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) has decided to allow 7, 500 pilgrims on each route daily. These are the traditional 36-km route from Pahalgam and the shortest 12-km route from Baltal. This will exclude pilgrims travelling by helicopter.
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