On Dehradun activist’s plea, NGT caps Mata Vaishno Devi pilgrimage to 50,000

“ The new path which was constructed for Rs. 40 crore should be positively opened to public by November 24. No further time will be granted and, in default, appropriate action will be taken against the concerned authorities –NGT
TNN Bureau. Updated: 11/14/2017 11:16:22 AM

JAMMU: On plea of a Dehradun based animal rights activist, the National Green Tribunal has capped the upper limit of daily pilgrimage to the Mata Vaishno Devi cave shrine at 50,000 to avoid any ‘untoward incident’.
Even as it is quite occasional since 2012 to have more than 50,000 pilgrims visiting the revered cave shrine in Trikuta Hills but Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board’s practical reaction to the National Green Tribunal’s directive was not immediately known. “The Board will take a view only when the formal order from the NGT is received”, SMVD Chief Executive Officer Jitendra Singh told The News Now.
The NGT has also passed some other directions on the Mata Vaishno Devi pilgrimage which included complete banning of horses and mules on the new pedestrian path to be opened on November 24 and gradual phasing out of animals on the other track too.
These directions were passed by the NGT on a plea filed by Dehradun based activist Gauri Maulekhi. A close associate of Union Minister Maneka Gandhi for over two decades, Gauri is a co-opted member of the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) and member-secretary of People For Animals (PFA), Uttharakhand. She has led successful campaigns against the practice of sacrificial slaughtering of cattle.
The NGT also said that a new path to the shrine exclusively for pedestrians and battery-operated cars will be opened from November 24. The NGT directed that no horses or mules shall be allowed on the new route to the shrine and these animals shall be removed slowly from the old path as well.
It also directed the authorities to impose a fine (environment compensation) of Rs. 2,000 on anyone found littering the roads as well as the bus stop at the nearby Katra town.
The NGT bench headed by chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar made it clear that if the number of pilgrims exceeds the prescribed 50,000 cap, they will be stopped at Ardhkuwari or Katra town, considering that the Vaishno Devi Bhawan structure cannot accommodate more than 50,000 persons.
The green panel’s directions came during the hearing of a plea filed by Gauri Maulekhi seeking directions to stop the use of horses and ponies in Vaishno Devi shrine premises, prompting the green panel to seek response from the government on the issue.
The petitioner had expressed concern over the “pollution and danger to public health” caused by indiscriminate use of horses, ponies, mules and donkeys, to carry pilgrims and goods from Katra to the Vaishno Devi temple.
Gauri Maulekhi sought to remove horses and mules from the path to the shrine, saying it was dangerous for the pedestrians, especially the senior citizens.
“The new path which was constructed for Rs. 40 crore should be positively opened to public by November 24. No further time will be granted and, in default, appropriate action will be taken against the concerned authorities,” the NGT said.


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