Deputy Chief Minister Dr Nirmal Singh flagged off first batch of annual Shri Buddha Amarnath Yatra from Bhagwati Nagar Yatri Niwas, here today. The first batch of 1,088 pilgrims including 642 males, 405 females and 41 children left the base camp at Bhagwati Nagar early this morning in a convoy of 33 vehicles. Later, some pilgrims joined at Akhnoor, Sunderbani and Rajouri and the number reached 1530. An official spokesman said that the pilgrims hailing from all over the country including 854 from Gujarat, 61 from Tamil Nadu, 109 from Bihar, 37 from Karnataka, 12 from Himachal Pradesh and 15 from other States left the base camp for paying obeisance at the holy shrine of Lord Shiva located in village Rajpura in tehsil Mandi of Poonch district. Speaking on the occasion, the DyCM said that the yatra will proceed towards Poonch today and next day the yatris will go to the shrine at Mandi. Elaborating the arrangements put in place by the administration for the convenience of the yatris, DyCM said that Government has taken various initiatives for promoting pilgrim tourism in the State. He said the concerted efforts are afoot to improve infrastructural facilities at all places of tourist attraction. Meanwhile, 1008 Maha Mandleshwar Swami Shri Vishavatma Anand Saraswarti Ji Maharaj- the head priest of Dashnami Akhara Poonch in presence of Minister for Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs, Choudhary Zulfkar Ali, Kuldip Raj Gupta vice chairman State Advisory Board for Development of Pahari Speaking People, DIG Jhonny Williams, DC Rajouri Shabir Ahmed Bhat and SSP Rajeshwar Singh besides others received Buddha Amarnath Yatra at Rajouri town this afternoon. As per tradition the flag hoisting ceremony and traditional lamp was lit at the venue by the Swami Ji and Yatra was further flagged off for Poonch. The yatra will culminate on Shravan Purnima falling on August 18 after the last batch of pilgrims perform `darshan’ at holy temple located in tehsil Mandi of district Poonch. While appreciating the role of all communities in successful conduct of the Yatra every year, the minister maintained that Jammu and Kashmir is known for its tradition of amity and communal harmony. While applauding the efforts of all the departments for making Yatra arrangements, the minister exhorted upon the officers to work with great zeal and put in concerted efforts so as to provide the Yatris with best possible services. At Poonch, about 1530 yatris in 44 vehicles were received by the District Administration led by DC, M H Mailk and SSP J S Johar at around 7.30 pm. Several senior officers of the District Administration including Nodal officer Dr Vinod Bhalla and representatives from Sanatan Dharam, VHP, Bajarang Dal and others from Dashnami Akhara Mandir Committee were present on the occasion. These pilgrims have been accommodated in various Govt buildings, SD Sabha Bhawan, ITI and Dashnami Akhara temple. They will proceed for the shrine at Mandi tomorrow morning. Earlier, the Army units provided evening tea and snacks to the pilgrims at Bhimber Gali Camp and also at RR unit headquarters at Surankote.
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