The Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir government are planning to initiate religious tourism plan by linking the forthcoming Amarnath Yatra with some tourist destinations, a move aimed at boosting local economy.
The Home Ministry has initiated preliminary discussions with the state government and the Union Tourism Ministry on finding out ways and means to link the annual Amarnath Yatra with tourism packages so that local population is benefited, official sources said.
The cave shrine is located in Himalayan range at a height of 12,756 feet and pilgrims take two routes — one from South Kashmir’s picturesque Pahalgham and the other through Northeast Sonamarg, also a tourist spot.
However, the pilgrims are generally focused with the Yatra route and do not venture into other places of tourist attraction which includes Gulmarg in North Kashmir or the famous Mughal gardens and Dal lake in Srinagar city.
The proposal will take the pilgrims to other tourist spots so that the local population stands benefited and earn their livelihood, the sources said.
The cave shrine was discovered by a Muslim– Buta Malik in 15th century and since then his family has been receiving a part of the offerings made by the devotees.
Efforts are also on to improve the communication networks and other basic facilities along the two Yatra routes so that the pilgrims get comfort during the arduous pilgrimage, they said.
Meanwhile, adequate central paramilitary forces have been provided to Jammu and Kashmir to ensure fool-proof security during the Amarnath Yatra beginning July 2.
There is no specific threat to the 48-day long Yatra to the cave shrine but all security arrangements have been made by the state government with active support of the central government, the official said.
Temporary communications infrastructure has been set up along the route besides working up deployment and other logistical details for the pilgrims.