JAMMU: After introducing Radio Frequency Identity Cards (RFID) to keep a track on the movement of pilgrims, the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board (SMVDSB) has started work on the much needed ‘Skywalk‘ which would help separate the incoming and outgoing pilgrims near the Bhawan area.
The skywalk with a length of 200 metres and width of 2.5 metres is expected to be completed by November at a cost of over Rs 9.89 crore to allow smooth movement of inbound pilgrims, an official of the SMVDSB said.
He said the facility, 20 feet above the track level, will help overcome the problem of multidirectional flow of yatra and a chaotic condition between Manokamna Bhawan and Gate No-3, the scene of stampede on New Year’s Day in which 12 people lost their lives and 16 others were injured.
It was the first such tragedy at the shrine, where pilgrims reach after a 13-km trek from the base camp Katra, following which Lt Governor Manoj Sinha, who is also the chairperson of the SMVDSB, had announced several decisions to ensure the safety of the devotees, including a provision for 100 per cent online registration.
Sinha had issued directions for physical and systematic improvements wherever required after critical examination, augmentation of infrastructure, decongestion of the entire track, appropriate use of technology for effective crowd and queue management and introduction of RFID tracking.
The yatris coming from Sanji Chat route via helicopter facility or through ponies and those from Himkoti route via battery operated vehicles and ‘palkies’ shall be able to use Skywalk to reach Bhawan area, the official said.
He said 6000 pilgrims at a time can walk their way into the shrine using the skywalk which will help in speedy movement of the yatra and thus the average time spent by a pilgrim in Bhawan area is expected to be reduced.
“This will help in enabling decongestion and better crowd management at Bhawan during peak periods,” the official said.
He said the stainless steel railing of 1200 mm high has been proposed on both sides of the Sky Walk with laminated panel glass railing.
“Wooden flooring is planned on the deck for comfortable movement of barefoot yatris. The Shrine Board is also constructing two waiting halls with washroom facilities along the Skywalk to accommodate seating for around 150 yatris,” the official said.
He said the waiting hall adjoining the Skywalk shall facilitate a holding area for the pilgrims during morning and evening ‘Aarti’ and will have LED screens for live ‘Aarti’ and other yatra related information.
“The deck of the entire 200 metres stretch is at a uniform elevation of 92.5 metres above sea level to facilitate hassle free movement of yatris especially the old, infirm and children who earlier had to negotiate the steep gradients in the Bhawan area,” the official said.
He said selfies points, water ATMs and toilet facilities are the other highlights of the Skywalk.
“An increased width of 5 metres has been kept in one stretch of 40 metres to provide seating arrangements for senior citizens and women while two emergency exit staircases have also been proposed at chainage 120 metres and 180 metres as per norms,” the official said.
The official said the first phase of ‘Durga Bahwan’, which can provide free accommodation to around 2,500 pilgrims on a daily basis, is expected to be completed next month.
The building coming up at Rs 28 crore in the Bhawan area was planned to prevent any congestion at the temple complex as the rush of pilgrims was increasing by every day.
The official said the introduction of the RFID based yatra cards for tracking pilgrims and effective management on the track has replaced the registration slips.
Being a quake prone area, the work is also ongoing on the slope stabilization measures including wire mesh to mitigate the adverse impacts from landslides and shooting stones, the official said.
The official said the board has planted 13 lakh trees on Trikuta and adjacent hills over the decade as part of annual greening plan with two lakh saplings being raised in-house at Kunia Nursery.