SRINAGAR, INDIA, July 21, 2020 (News Click): As the number of COVID-19 cases in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) continue to surge, the authorities have finally called-off this year's Amarnath Yatra for the first time in history, terming it as a preventive measure against the pandemic, official sources said. The decision comes weeks after the UT administration, along with the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB), had proposed to carry out the annual Hindu pilgrimage in a staggered manner. The plan was, however, widely criticized as the number of COVID-19 cases had begun surging in the region.
Even as the administration had decided not to allow more than 500 devotees per day to visit the holy cave, many viewed the decision in the backdrop of putting the lives of both the devotees and locals at risk. On Monday, an official statement from Raj Bhavan, while confirming the cancellation of the Yatra, admitted that health concerns were so serious that the strain on the health system, along with the diversion in resources to the Yatra, would be immense. Every year, Hindu pilgrims from across the world visit Kashmir to travel to the upper reaches of Pahalgam where the holy cave is located. The cave in the Himalayan snowy peaks is opened every year between June and August for devotees, whose numbers have risen to hundreds of thousands over the years.