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Days after the state government released a circular of the Gujarat Transport department to Tour operators undertaking the Amarnath Yatra, Minister of State for Home Pradeepsinh Jadeja on Saturday announced that the government has decided to withdraw the circular. The Indian Express had reported on March 22 that the Gujarat Transport department in a circular dated March 16 had laid down many prerequisite conditions for tour operators seeking the permit to ferry passengers to Jammu and Kashmir. While the department had advised that the passengers should be given bullet proof jackets, it has shifted the onus of procuring the same on the tour operators.
On Saturday, a statement from the Home Department of the Gujarat state government said, “Minister of State for Home, Pradeepsinh Jadeja has declared that the state government has decided to withdraw the circular issued by the Gujarat state transport department on March 16, 2018, related to the guidelines for pilgrims travelling to Amarnath.”
Jadeja said that the Narendra Modi-led central government as well as the state government is well equipped to provide safety to the pilgrims traveling to Amarnath. The state government will provide safety to pilgrims travelling from Gujarat to Amarnath.
The decision of the state government to withdraw the circular has brought relief to the tour operators. A member of the Tour operators association said, “We are very glad that the government considered our representation and took steps to ensure that the pilgrims and the operators do not suffer due to such impractical conditions like providing bullet proof jackets to the travellers as well as training to the driver and cleaner. While we agree that some of the points in the advisory related to the route and safety while choosing our tour journey is important, we are happy that the procedural part of submitting route maps and such details have also been cancelled. We will certainly keep the passenger safety as our priority.”
Following the terror attack on a bus carrying pilgrims from Gujarat to Amarnath in July last year, the Commissioner of Transport had issued guidelines to all RTOs and tour operators that stressed on preparedness to handle unforeseen situations. The circular states, “Several tourists travel to Amarnath Yatra every year because of their devotion. The safety of these tourists is also as important as the religious relevance of the tours.”
The circular had also mentioned special instructions related to the bus driver, which has left most tour operators upset. It includes a mandatory training ahead of the tour to be able to prepare them for the conditions in J&K. The circular states, “A driver, who is part of the Amarnath Yatra, 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. He must adhere to the route, convoy and security guidelines laid down by the government of Jammu and Kashmir. No night halts are allowed on the route, except in the areas pre-decided by the government of J&K. No bus can run after sunset. The drivers must be trained to administer first aid and always carry a first aid kit with them. It further stated, “The bus conductor and drivers should be made aware of the conditions in J&K. A training session should be held around May 15, before the commencement of the Amarnath tours in coordination with the respective RTOs.”