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Kanwar Yatra to be guarded by drones, snipers

By Anuj Cariappa

Noida, July 08: Drones and a helicopter will be used for aerial surveillance during the upcoming Kanwar Yatra, while snipers and teams of Anti-Terror Squad will be positioned at crucial spots to ensure security of thousands of pilgrims, top Uttar Pradesh government officials said on Sunday.

Kanwar Yatra is an annual pilgrimage of Lord Shiva's devotees, known as kanwariyas, who visit Haridwar, Gaumukh and Gangotri in Uttarakhand and Sultanganj in Bihar to fetch holy waters of river Ganga during the auspicious Hindu month of Shravan. This year, the yatra begins on July 17.

Kanwar Yatra to be guarded by drones, snipers

Uttar Pradesh chief secretary Anup Chandra Pandey and Director General of Police O P Singh in Greater Noida reviewed the overall preparation for the annual yatra during an inter-state coordination meeting with top police and administrative officials from Delhi, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan and Haryana.

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"We have had a detailed discussion on the preparations with officials of other states. We also had a discussion with district magistrates and police chiefs of various districts in western UP. They have been asked to personally visit the spots and review the arrangements. Dial 100 vehicles should be on duty on kanwariya routes, police response teams should be deployed at every 5 km so that they can react quickly to any incident," Pandey said.

"There is also an arrangement for a helicopter, which would be used to monitor the situation. Drones have also been arranged for surveillance on the route," he told reporters.

The chief secretary said all officers have been asked to maintain an "amicable attitude" to ensure successful completion of the yatra.

"We have almost 8,000 police personnel who will be deployed, drones and a helicopter have been arranged for aerial monitoring. Police control centres have been set up and our objective is to reduce the response time compared to last year," DGP Singh said.

In 2017, 36 incidents were reported during the Kanwar Yatra, and 17 in 2018. This year the state police is aiming to further reduce the number of incidents, he said.

Singh said Anti-Terror Squad personnel will also be deployed.

"ATS teams will be present in Meerut and in between Muzaffarnagar and Saharanpur. They will be flexible and mobile. Arrangements have been made for snipers also like it was done during the Kumbh Mela with the help of the National Security Guard. This time we have deployed our own squads. We are also taking the help of paramilitary and Rapid Action Forces," he said.

Speaking about the arrests of terrorists from four locations in the state last year, the police chief said "we cannot rule out a possible terror threat" to the Kanwar Yatra.

"There have been incidents in which vehicles have been ploughed into crowds and we are going to keep an eye on such suspicious vehicular movement," he said.

Additional director general of police, Meerut Zone, Prashant Kumar, who had last year showered rose petals on kanwars from a helicopter, appraised the top officials about the law and order preparedness for the annual yatra.

Meerut Division Commissioner Anita Meshram said a special mobile phone app has been developed to provide information about all routes and schedules to facilitate smooth conduct of the yatra.

District magistrates, SPs and SSPs of Gautam Buddh Nagar, Ghaziabad, Hapur, along with top administrative and police officials of western Uttar Pradesh, also attended the meeting.

Pandey directed all district magistrates to ensure a safe and successful Kanwar Yatra and warned of action against the concerned departments in case of any lapses.

"The chief minister's intention is clear that it should be a historic Kanwar Yatra and should be carried out safely and successfully. Hence, all officials should exhibit due seriousness in the work assigned to their departments," he said.

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