Jammu, Feb 21 (IANS) The process of registering pilgrims for this year's Amarnath pilgrimage will commence from March 18 for both the Baltal and Pahalgam routes through over 400 designated bank branches, said a shrine board spokesman Thursday. A health certificate will be mandatory.
According to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) spokesman, pilgrims can register at registration counters located all across the country through 422 designated branches of Jammu and Kashmir Bank, YES Bank, State Bank of India (SBI), Punjab National Bank (PNB) and HDFC Bank.
Full details of all the registration centres have been made available on the SASB website,www.shriamarnathjishrine.com.
This year's pilgrimage to the cave shrine in the Kashmir Himalayas will commence simultaneously, from both the Baltal and the Pahalgam routes, on June 28 and culminate on Raksha Bandhan (Aug 21).
The traditional Pahalgam route involves a trek of 46 km from Pahalgam tourist resort 100 km south of Srinagar, while the route from Baltal, 110 km north of Srinagar, is a shorter but quite steep and arduous.
According to the SASB spokesman, the applicants will be required to submit a compulsory health certificate while seeking registration. No one below 13 years or above 75 years of age and no pregnant woman with more than six weeks pregnancy will be registered.
This year, the board has increased the number of registration counters to 422, from 276 in 2012. For the first time, SBI, PNB and HDFC banks are participating in the registration process.
For the purpose of registration, to be done on 'First-Come-First-Serve Basis', the requisite application form and the compulsory health certificate Form, can be collected from any of the designated bank branches or downloaded from the Board's website. The process will be completed when a 'Yatra Permit' is issued to the eligible pilgrims, who will be required to submit a duly filled-in application form, compulsory health certificate and a payment of Rs.30 towards handling charges.
According to the spokesman, the provision of on-line facility has been discontinued because of the "gross misuse of this facility past year, and also due to requirement of first verifying whether a yatri possesses a valid compulsory health certificate or not".
This year, the 'Yatra Permit' would be of a specified colour for each day of the week to facilitate police personnel deployed at the access control gates in determining whether a pilgrim possesses documents valid for the relevant date and route, said the spokesman.
He said the Shrine Board will provide every registered pilgrim with an insurance cover of Rs.1 lakh against accidental death within the state during the period of one week ahead of the commencement of the pilgrimage to one week after its conclusion.