Over eight lakh pilgrims paid obeisance at the cave shrine of Amarnath in south Kashmir Himalayas in the last three years, the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly was informed today.
In a written reply to a question raised by National Conference MLA Mian Altaf Ahmad, Health Minister Bali Bhagat said while the highest number of 3,52,771 pilgrims visited the cave shrine in 2015, the number fell to 2,20,490 in 2016, the year which witnessed unrest in the valley following killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani.
However, he said the number rose to 2,60,003 last year. Last year in July, a terror attack on a bus carrying Amarnath pilgrims in Anantnag district of south Kashmir left seven pilgrims dead and 15 others injured.
The nearly two month annual pilgrimage usually starts in the last week of June from the twin routes of Pahalgam in Anantnag district and Baltal in Ganderbal district.
While Pahalgam is the traditional 45-km route to the cave shrine, majority of the pilgrims prefer the shortest 16-km route from Baltal to pay their obeisance at the shrine, which houses the naturally formed ice-lingam.
The minister said the pilgrims are being provided adequate medical facilities at various places en route the shrine.
Large number of pilgrims availed medical facilities, he said adding while 1,97,000 were treated in OPD’s in Kashmir last year, the number stood at 1,24,000 in 2016 and 1,74,000 in 2015.
In Jammu, 89,823 pilgrims were treated in various district health facilities last year against 89,311 in the previous year, he said.
He said 16,984 availed the facility of in-patient department in Kashmir valley last year, while the number of such patients was 8,651 in 2016 and 14,686 in 2015.
A total of 8,125 pilgrims had suffered injuries during the pilgrimage last year against 6,348 in 2016 and 12,528 in 2015, the minister said.
A huge number of pilgrims also availed the AYUSH facility made available by the government at various camps en route the shrine, the minister said.
He said while 23,161 pilgrims attended AYUSH camps last year, the number was 49,640 in 2016. The minister said the department has over the years vigorously propagated the need for pilgrims to visit medical facilities while travelling in this high altitude area.