Nearly a year after the terror attack on a bus carrying Amarnath yatra pilgrims from Gujarat in Kashmir, the Gujarat Commissioner of Transport has issued guidelines to all the road transport offices (RTOs) and tour operators, stressing on preparedness to handle unforeseen situations.
The circular that comes ahead of the Amarnath tours this year has made it mandatory for respective RTOs to issue permits for Amarnath yatra only when tour operators submit registration forms from the Amarnath Board in advance, including details of the bus, permit number, names of passengers and their addresses along with cellphone numbers of their relatives. The circular has also put a cap on the age of the bus as well as the driver.
“No bus older than eight years will be allowed to operate on Amarnath Yatra. The stopper of door of the bus should be manually operated… A driver must be physically fit and not above the age of 50. He should be acquainted with the geographical, climatic, road conditions of Jammu and Kashmir,” the circular stated, besides recommending mandatory training for the drivers.
“The drivers must be trained to administer first aid and always carry a first aid kit with them… A training session should be held (for the drivers) around May 15, before the commencement of the Amarnath yatra in coordination with the respective RTOs,” it stated.
The circular has also directed the tour operators and the drivers to stick to their routes. “The operators must submit a route plan of the tour for the purpose of seeking permit. No night halts are allowed on the route, except in areas pre-decided by the government of J&K. No bus can run after sunset,” it added.
“In case of any unforeseen situations, the driver, conductor, as well as four or five literate passengers, must be given instructions for handling emergency situations. They must have the contact numbers of control rooms of their district, state and the Amarnath Yatra control room. In case of an emergency, the owner of the tour should contact the state control room,” the guidelines stated.
Transport Commissioner R M Jadav said that the guidelines were framed after the last year’s terror attack on the bus in which seven pilgrims from Gujarat were killed. “The idea is to ensure preparedness for the tour and keep the tour operators alert. We have given the circular in advance so that the tour operators can start preparing for the same before taking bookings,” Jadav said.
The mandatory training of the drivers and their age cap have, however, left most of the tour operators upset. “The association of tour operators of Gujarat has made a representation to the transport department and we will soon submit an official memorandum urging them to change some provisions. While the safety of passengers is also our foremost concern, these conditions will make it extremely difficult for us to operate tours this year. It is likely that we will not take any bookings for Amarnath Yatra this year,” said a tour operator.
According to tour operators, as many as 25,000 pilgrims from Gujarat travel to Amarnath shrine every year. Of these, about 15,000 travel by private operated tours.