Jammu: For the first time, the helicopters of Indian Air Force (IAF) will be seen hovering at the cave shrine of Shri Amarnath during the annual 62-day long pilgrimage starting from July 1 and concluding on August 30 on Raksha Bandhan festival.
“As three-tier security arrangements are being put in place during the yatra, the Indian Air Force (IAF) for the first time will also play a key role in augmenting the security sector besides acting as rescue machines at the time of any urgency,” official sources said.
Sources added that expecting a heavy rush of pilgrims during the Yatra this year, the administration has made adequate arrangements including infrastructure, basic facilities and tight security.
According to official sources, more than 2.5 lakh pilgrims from across the country have so far registered online for the yatra.
The online helicopter booking has also started from Friday.
“The IAF copters will be playing a crucial role in making the pilgrimage of Shri Amarnath Yatra completely safe and smooth this year,” official sources said adding that the flying machines are to be stationed at the identified locations en route Yatra route and will regularly be maintaining the surveillance around the holy cave.
“The IAF sorties previously also had been engaged but only in emergency situations,” they said, adding that the helicopters would keep surveillance along Baltal and Nunwan routes and also around the holy cave at regular intervals.
Notably, in July 2022, 16 pilgrims were killed in the flash floods triggered due to a cloudburst in the upper reaches of the holy cave.
Sources further said, “One helicopter each will be available round the clock at prominent halts en route Yatra along both the tracks to carry any kind of relief work in case of urgency.”
“Unwell pilgrims, those suffering cardiac arrests or at the time of any medical emergency, the IAF copters will rescue and shift them to the health centres to save the precious lives,” they added.
Sources also said that the helicopters will also be utilised in delivering necessary equipment for the security forces deployed on the yatra route and to cater other medical emergencies.
However, deployment of security forces including Jammu and Kashmir Police, Army, CRPF, CAPF, CISF and other paramilitary forces is to be made from June 20 during the yatra period for the safety of the pilgrims.