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No financial assistance from J

Written by: Staff
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Srinagar, July 3 (UNI) The Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) today said it was not getting any financial assistance from the Jammu and Kashmir government and had to take a loan of Rs two crore to set up the infrastructure for this year's two-month-long pilgrimage.

Reacting to a media report suggesting that the helicopter service was being run at the behest of the Board, SASB Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dr Arun Kumar said it had entered into an arrangement with operators plying on the route.

According to the arrangement, the operators had to earmark one seat for the SASB for official purposes each day, he added.

Dr Kumar said the Board officials managing the pilgrimage have to frequently visit the holy cave and camps utilising these seats.

''Since most of these free seats remain unutilised, these are converted into flying minutes at the rate of 15 minutes per four seats. The accumulated flying time is utilised for medical or similar exigencies and money on account of the still remaining time, if any, is deposited with the Board,'' he clarified.

The CEO said the Board spends the money raised from offerings, royalty by helicopter operators and amount in lieu of free seats for creating various facilities for the pilgrimage.

All these were reflected in the accounts, books of the Board and duly audited by an authorised Chartered Accountant, he added.

Dr Kumar said similar amounts raised by other agencies, including the Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Development Corporation, managing the helicopter operations in earlier years were never spent for evacuating casualties or for upgrading any facilities for devotees.

Against the offerings and other income of Rs 4.49 crore last year, an amount of Rs 8.76 crore was spent on raising of temporary pre-fabricated shelters and toilets besides maintaining health and hygiene, he added.

The CEO said the SASB in view of this deficit was forced to raise Rs 2 crore in loan which it was now repaying. The SASB does not receive any financial assistance from the state government for anything, he added.

Dr Kumar underlined the fact that the SASB was not a body of private persons, but a trust created in pursuance of an Act of the State Legislature.

''Whatever income accrues to the SASB, therefore, is ploughed back into creating or upgrading facilities for pilgrims. Unlike any private company, the SASB does not pay any remuneration, dividend, bonus or even sitting fee to any member of its Board, including its Chairman and CEO,'' he added.

UNI AG FMH MSJ RN1923

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