By Line: Ishank Kayal
Jammu and Kashmir: Vaishno Devi along with other religious places in the union territory has been reopened on Sunday 16th August around 6 am by Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board after Ramesh Kumar, CEO of SMVDSB took a last-minute review to endure safety to the pilgrims. Vaishno Devi was closed from the last five months due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Khushwinder Singh is a 42-year-old devotee who is a part of 12 member group who reached Katra before dawn to pay obeisance to Goddess Vaishno Devi Shrine atop Trikuta Hills in Reasi district of Jammu and Kashmir.
“I used to come to the shrine at least once every month to offer my prayers. I feel blessed to be back on the first day of the reopening of the shrine” Singh told PTI.
Singh had reached Katra at 4 am and was among the first batch to offer prayers at Sanctum Sanctorum, A holy cave in Vaishno Devi which was the final destination of the devotees.
“The Vaishno Devi Pilgrimage was stopped at March 18 as the precautionary measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and now when the administration had decided to reopen the religious places, the board had taken all necessary measures keeping in mind the challenge posed by the dreaded disease “. Ramesh Kumar told PTI.
According to safety norms in the first week, there shall be a maximum footfall of 2,000 people each day including 1,900 people from Jammu and Kashmir and 100 from outside.
“The government has come out with a detailed Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) and the pilgrims are requested to follow the safety guidelines for their own safety and safety of others. “ Kumar said while examining the automatic thermal screening point with attached hand sanitizer along with the entry point with painted circles to ensure social distancing.