Amarnath row ''reduces'' number of pilgrims at Vaishno Devi

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Jammu, July 1 (UNI) The ongoing agitation over transfer of land to Shri Amarnath Shrine Board has brought down the number of pilgrims visiting Katra base camp for Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine, official sources here today said.

Though record number of pilgrims visited Katra town of Reasi district in the last month touching the figure 35,000 to 38,000 daily, but the ''burning'' issue of the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) had direct impact on the pilgrimage, which has reduced to 12,000 to 14,000 per day, sources added.

''Earlier, the agitation in the Valley had badly effected the Vaishno Devi yatra but the three-day call for Jammu bandh by various political parties, instantly decreased the number of pilgrims visiting Katra to pay obeisance at world famed Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine situated on the Trikuta Hills,'' official sources told UNI.

However, special arrangements have been made for the stranded pilgrims by the state government. ''Food stalls (langars) have been organised and special bus service have been pushed in to carry the pilgrims from Katra to Jammu,'' official sources said asserting, ''those who are returning from Amarnath are now heading towards Jammu to rush back to their homes rather than touring different destinations in the state.'' Moreover, Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board (SMVDSB) has also made sufficient arrangements for the pilgrims at Katra base camp and enroute 13-kilometre track to Bhawan, they added.

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