New Delhi, Nov 15: The Amarnath Shrine Board on Wednesday faced the wrath of the National Green Tribunal which rapped it for not providing proper infrastructural facilities to pilgrims going to the cave shrine in south Kashmir Himalayas, saying it cant "deprive people of proper darshan". The green panel also took exception to non-compliance of the directions issued by the Supreme Court in 2012 and asked the board what steps have it taken in all these years.
"You have allowed shops on path near the shrine. There are no proper facilities for toilets. Do you even know how humiliating this is for women? Why have you not provided proper infrastructural facilities for pilgrims? "You are giving priority to commercial activities over pilgrims. This is unfair. The sanctity of the shrine has to be maintained but you cant deprive people of proper darshan," a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar said.
The green panel formed a committee of experts headed by additional secretary of Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to submit primary action plan on providing facilities to the pilgrims. The committee also comprises secretary of environment of Jammu and Kashmir, senior scientists from the union environment ministry, G B Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Sustainable Development, Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, CEO of Amarnath Shrine Board, an officer not below the rank of brigadier in Army, member secretary of the state pollution control board besides others.
The bench said the committee shall submit report on aspects like providing a proper path and declaring the cave as silent zone while maintaining cleanliness in area near the shrine after inspection. The NGT asked the committee to consider declaring the area around the Amarnath Shrine cave as "silence zone" to prevent avalanches and ensure there is prohibition on carrying of religious offerings inside the cave to maintain its pristine nature.
The tribunal also suggested replacing the iron rods installed inside the Amarnath cave with security personnel so that pilgrims can get a better view of the shrine.
It also asked the committee to consider installing eco- friendly toilets in the area. The direction came after the counsel for the shrine board and its CEO told the bench that they lacked necessary expertise on the infrastructural facilities to the devotees.
The NGT also directed the shrine board to submit a status report, by the first week of December, on the compliance of directions issued by the apex court in 2012.
The matter is listed for next hearing on December 5. The Amarnath cave shrine is considered to be one of the holiest shrines in Hinduism. The cave itself is covered with snow most of the year except for a short period of time in summer when it is open for pilgrims.
The directions came while hearing the plea filed by environment activist Gauri Maulekhi.