Jammu and Kashmir Lt Governor Manoj Sinha on Monday said the tender process for a ropeway for the Mata Vaishno Devi shrine is the final phase and the project will be undertaken with “utmost sensitivity” to safeguard the interests of local businesses.
The Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board (SMVDSB) has approved a Rs 250-crore passenger ropeway project between Tarakote Marg and Sanji Chat along the 12-km track to the revered shrine atop the Trikuta hills in Reasi district.
“The tendering process of the ropeway project is in its last phase and the work on the project will be undertaken with utmost sensitivity to ensure that local business is not impacted,” Sinha, who is the board’s chairman, told reporters after offering prayers at the shrine.
The Lt Governor, who also inaugurated the Tripti Bhojanalaya and the Prasad Kendra at the temple complex’s Bhawan, said the ropeway project was approved to facilitate pilgrims, especially the elderly and the differently-abled, to offer prayers at the shrine with much more ease.
The addition of the two facilities at the Durga Bhawan are part of the continuous efforts to provide a comfortable and satisfying experience to pilgrims visiting the shrine from across the country and abroad, he said.
“Over 3,000 pilgirms can be accommodated at the Durga Bhawan a day, and 750 visitors can have their food at the Bhojanalaya at one time,” Sinha said.
Officials said the 2.4-km-long ropeway project will be completed in three years. Using this facility, pilgrims can reach the temple complex in just six minutes compared to the five to six hour trek, they said.
Last year, 91.25 lakh pilgrims visited the shrine, the highest in nearly a decade.
Only 17 lakh pilgrims visited the shrine in 2020 when it was for the first time in its history closed for five months due Covid. It reopened on August 16, 2020.
From 13.95 lakh pilgrims in 1986, when the SMVDSB took over the affairs of the shrine for better management, there has been a steady increase in footfall with each passing year, touching an all-time high of 1.04 crore in 2012 against 1.01 crore the previous year.
The arrival of pilgrims at the shrine touched 31.15 lakh in 1991 and reached 74.17 lakh in 2007. However, the number dropped to 67.92 lakh in 2008 which was attributed to the two-month long Amarnath land row agitation but again went up to 82 lakh in 2009 and 87.2 lakh the next year.
It dropped from 93.24 lakh in 2013 to 78.03 lakh in 2014 and further to 77.76 lakh in 2015 and 77.23 lakh in 2016.
The arrival of pilgrims increased to 81.78 lakhs in 2017 and 85.87 lakhs in 2018 but again dropped to 79.40 lakh in 2019 – the year when the central government revoked special status of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.