Srinagar: Concerned over rising number of deaths of devotees en route the cave shrine of Amarnath this year, a team led by Jammu and Kashmir Health Minister Sham Lal Sharma visited pilgrim camps to review medical facilities provided to them.
Sharma, accompanied by his deputy Javid Ahmad Dar and Chief Executive Officer of Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) Navin K Choudhary, visited camps at Nunwan, Sheshnag, Panjtarni, Holy cave and Baltal yesterday, an official spokesman said.
He said the team inspected all Medical Aid Centres (MAC), checked the number of doctors and para-medical staff on duty and the availability of medicines, essential diagnostic and treatment equipments and oxygen cylinders.
As many as 83 pilgrims have died, mostly due to cardiac arrest since the commencement of the yatra on June 25, sparking off criticism by Hindu groups who have alleged lack of adequate medical facilities.
Expressing concern over the rising number of deaths of pilgrims on way to the holy shrine, the Supreme Court had on Monday sought explanation from the Centre and Jammu and Kashmir government on lack of proper medical facilities for them.
The spokesman said the high-level team undertook the visit on the directions of Governor NN Vohra, who is also chairman of the SASB, and Chief Minister Omar Abdullah to review medical facilities.
"The team found that the MAC are operating virtually round-the-clock and providing required aid to pilgrims," the spokesman said.
After his visit, the Health Minister directed immediate augmentation of critical life saving medicines, particularly at high altitude MACs at Sheshnag, Panjtarni and Holy Cave.
The team also visited MACs run by Army and paramilitary forces and directed that all MACs should run in coordination and pool their resources to help the pilgrims.
During his interaction with doctors, Sharma was informed that many pilgrims do not come with adequate clothing and commence climbing without any acclimatisation attempting to complete the yatra in the shortest possible time, the spokesman said.
He said many pilgrims start the yatra from Baltal or Panjtarni empty stomach with the belief that they should not consume any food or drink before concluding their 'darshan' of the naturally formed ice-shivlingam at the 3,880 metre high cave shrine.
Doctors also informed the Health Minister that in many cases persons with existing medical problems have been able to obtain registration after furnishing compulsory health certificates which are obviously invalid, the spokesman said.
"In one case, a yatri who had recently undergone a bypass surgery was able to obtain a certificate which declared him fit for undergoing such an arduous yatra," the spokesman said.
Sharma directed doctors and yatra officers at base camps at Nunwan and Baltal to position themselves at entry gates and look out for pilgrims with symptom of illness.