Govt In A Fix As SC Panel Recommends Road Widening

Govt In A Fix As SC Panel Recommends Road Widening

6 October 2012
Greater Kashmir
Firdous Tak

Jammu: Recommendations of a Supreme Court appointed Committee for looking into infrastructure facilities of Amarnath Yatra has put the J&K Government in a tight spot. The Committee-comprising secretaries of various departments including Environment, Home, Health and headed by Chief Secretary-has observed that “the road to the cave shrine was too narrow at various places and needs immediate widening.” “The Committee has identified several places where the widening work has been proposed to be taken up on war-footing,” sources said. The Committee was set up by the Apex Court on July 20, 2012, after it took suo moto cognizance of media reports on pilgrims' deaths allegedly due to lack of proper facilities and medical care for them. The Committee has submitted its report to the state government which was expected to take a decision on the issue in the Cabinet meeting on October 5. However the decision was deferred due to the ‘lack of consensus’ among the ministers over some recommendations, sources said. Informed sources told Greater Kashmir that the ministers were caught in a catch-22 situation as the Cabinet has to take a final call on the recommendations before October 12, a deadline set by the Supreme Court, which will again hear the matter on that day. “The Cabinet wanted to take a decision but some ministers were of the opinion that the recommendations may have serious political ramifications in the state,” a Cabinet minister said on the condition of anonymity. Earlier reports that the state government was mulling to widen the road leading to the shrine had snowballed into a major controversy, forcing the government to come out with a clarification. The state government had denied any plans to develop a road to the Amarnath shrine saying that high-powered committee constituted by the Supreme Court had not given any suggestion in this regard. “The state government has no plans to make a road to the Amarnath cave shrine,” Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather had said. However, another Cabinet minister claimed that the Committee has only recommended the widening of the road, which does not mean a motorable road has to be constructed. “The path is in fact narrow at certain places and government may undertake before the Supreme Court that it will be widened to the extent of allowing easy movement of the pilgrims,” he added. The state government has time till October 12 to take a final decision on the recommendations of the Committee. Sources said that the Cabinet will again meet next week to deliberate upon the recommendation so that the decision is taken and communicated to Supreme Court on the next date of hearing. The Apex Court on last Monday gave two weeks time to the state government to take a decision on the measures it will adopt to make the annual Amarnath Yatra safe. The Committee, sources said, has also recommended improving the system for the medical check-up of the pilgrims before they are permitted to undertake the Yatra. “In this regard the Committee has suggested seeking help from Government of India so that the pilgrims can be checked properly and issued health certificate accordingly,” sources said.