NEW DELHI: The Union home ministry on Tuesday undertook a comprehensive security review of the forthcoming Amarnath Yatra in Jammu and Kashmir and laid stress on inter-agency coordination and the use of drones, dogs and aerial-survey teams to counter any terror act and quickly respond to disasters, official sources said.
The meeting, held in the North Block, was chaired by Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla, with senior officers from the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs), such as the CRPF, BSF and ITBP, and those from the intelligence departments, the Army, the Jammu and Kashmir Police and administration and the Amarnath shrine board in attendance, the sources said.
The 62-day annual pilgrimage is scheduled to start on July 1 and continue till August 31.
The final contours of the security grid were reviewed at the meeting and it was stressed that inter-agency coordination should be flawless, keeping in mind all the threats and inter-changed duties among the forces.
The sources said the use of drones, apart from the traditional methods of securing the yatra routes, was underlined, besides using search-and-rescue dogs at all places, including near the cave shrine, in order to respond quickly in case of a natural or man-made disaster.
A team of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) canines has already been deployed so that the dogs are acclimatised with the height and cold weather, they said. A team of experts and the NDRF will undertake an aerial survey of the upper reaches to provide early warnings for any glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF) or flash flood-like situation, the sources said.
A major change effected this time in the security apparatus is the deployment of the mountain-warfare trained personnel of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) at the cave shrine in place of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).
The ITBP, officials said, is adept at undertaking rescue operations at a high altitude and hence, it has been given the task at the cave shrine this time.
The CRPF has been traditionally guarding the cave shrine, located at a height of 3,888 metres in the south Kashmir Himalayas, and some vital pilgrim camps en route for decades.
The CRPF will now be present just below the stairs of the cave shrine, even as the ITBP and Border Security Force (BSF) will guard about half-a-dozen camps that were earlier guarded by the CRPF, the lead internal security force of the country.
The sources had earlier told PTI that this new arrangement was made keeping in mind the “emerging security threats and challenges” and in accordance with the “requirements of the Jammu and Kashmir Police”.
As a huge number of CRPF units have been inducted in ethnic violence-hit Manipur and for the panchayat polls in West Bengal, the force has been asked to secure the yatra route in the Kashmir valley, where the pilgrims will board buses before starting the uphill journey.
The Amarnath Yatra pilgrims travel through two routes – Baltal and Pahalgam.
Last year, 3.45 lakh people visited the cave shrine and the figure could go up to five lakh this time, the officials said.