Srinagar, Jun 25 (UNI) The diversion of 39.88 hectares of forest land to Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) was only for the construction of temporary structures, a nine-page document released by Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad to set at rest the controversy over the issue, said.
The document, which was released by him at a press conference this afternoon, said the cabinet approved the proposal of the Forest department for diversion of the land to the SASB at Baltal and Domail on May 26.
The diversion was approved by the cabinet in view of the recommendations of the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC), the opinion of the Law Department, the advocate general and Deputy Chief Minister, and report of the committee constituted, the order said.
It said the pilgrimage to the holy shrine has been going on for centuries and local population had always taken an active role in helping the ''yatris'' in performing the pilgrimage.
Mr Azad said the Deputy Commissioner of Anantnag used to function as yatra officer and was responsible for the smooth conduct of the yatra.
With the passage of time, it was felt necessary to build strong structures en route to the shrine which could withstand the fury of the wethers and also provide shelter to the pilgrims.
The document said the need for such structures was reinforced in 1996 when a very large number of pilgrims died.
In order to institutionalise the arrangements for the smooth conduct of the management of the yatra, the state legislature passed the Jammu and Kashmir Shri Amarnathji Shrine Act 2000.
The bill was piloted by the tourism department in pursuant to the cabinet decision on October 10, 2000. The board received the assent of the Governor on November 14, 2000.
A project report was received from the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of SASB the by the government on October 15, 2004, requesting for a transfer of 3642 kanals of land for seven halting places on the Baltal-Amarnath and Chandanwai-cave routes.
The Chief Minister said the matter was examined at different levels, before putting it before the Forest Minister who said he approved it on the condition that there is no violation of the J &K forest (conservation) Act 1997 and the cabinet decision regarding diversion of forest land.
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