SOPs, Guidelines for Yatra being prepared: Mr. Ramesh Kumar, CEO, SHRI MATA VAISHNO DEVI SHRINE BOARD

No.PR-85 May 18, 2020 New Delhi SOPs, Guidelines for Yatra being prepared: Mr. Ramesh Kumar, CEO, SHRI MATA VAISHNO DEVI SHRINE BOARD New Delhi, May 17, 2020: While speaking in a webinar program organized by Jammu Region Chapter of PHD Chamber of Commerce & Industry on “Way Forward For Tourism & Shri Vaishnodevi Yatra Post Covid-19” with Mr. Ramesh Kumar, Chief Executive Officer SMVD Shrine Board said that though Yatra will start only when directions from Home Ministry will come preparations on their side should be complete keeping in view the new guidelines issued concerning Covid-19, and Shrine Board is in the process of formulating SOPs for the resumption of the yatra once the lockdown is lifted. He said that regulating the movement, once public transport systems become operational, is a challenging proposition. The Board is considering to undertake online registration of devotees, and GPS-enabled systems were being actively under consideration to track pilgrims in real-time to ensure they adhered to social distancing measures while trekking to the Temple from Katra. Mr. Ramesh Kumar said that they are considering installing Door-mounted thermal scanning at multiple places en route Bhawan likewise the bed capacity at free dormitories is being reduced temporarily to implement social distancing measures. He added that only family members, and not unrelated people, were going to be permitted to use the paid lodging to reduce the chances of the spread of the infection. The seating capacities at bhojanalaya (food court) and langars were being reduced, and devotees were going to be given coupons with specific time slots to manage the crowds better, were other suggestions being considered. The lack of clarity on whether animals could spread the disease was yet another challenge before pressing in the ponies for ferrying pilgrims, he added. Mr. Sujit K Singh, DIG, Reasi-Katra-Udhampur Range while deliberating on the topic, said that Police Department is always ready for any type of cooperation and would jointly work with Shrine Board and Authorities in making of these SOPs, guidelines so that those are implemented on the ground perfectly. He suggested that initially only online registration of Yatra should be started especially from areas that are falling In green zones of the country and gradually should move to other areas. He highlighted that proper sanitizing tunnels needs to be installed at Ban Ganga which might be a starting point for the yatra to Holy cave Of Shri Mata Vaishnodevi and this will help to prevent the spread of the virus from one infected person to another. He also urged the Hoteliers during this occasion to cooperate with the Police department for proper verifications of the employees who have returned from their home towns to work at Katra Post LockDown. Mr. Parvez Dewan, Former Advisor to J&K Governor & Former Secretary Tourism, Govt. of India while speaking on the occasion suggested for the reduction in the quota of Yatra to 33% for initial few months. He further suggested for maintaining social distancing, a 30 min slot on the Yatra slip, in the initial stages (post lockdown) restricting the yatra to the some of our neighboring states like Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh and later on when the situation improves other states started. He suggested that as we have 3 routes for this pilgrimage and to ensure proper social distancing the Yatra be regulated for going on one track and for coming on another. He also suggested that inside the Holy cave we need to have cubical Flexi glass which may ensure proper hygiene and proper social distancing and which will also help in stopping the transmission of this deadly virus. Mr. K. B. Kachru, Member, Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board & Chair Emeritus South Asia, Radisson Hotel Group highlighted that the inbound tourism has come to a halt with India under Lockdown and suggested that any plan of re-opening must be done keeping long term benefits and safety compliances in mind and for this, we need to do ground-level work to evaluate the things to get survive out from this unwilling pandemic situation. He further stated that as the Tourism and hospitality sector is struggling for its survival we also need to look out about the other sources of revenue. Around Katra Town, many places of interest are undeveloped and once we can develop those attaching areas it will help to boost tourism in J&K state. Mr. Pradeep Multani, Vice President, PHD Chamber, in his welcome address said looking at the present times we must learn to live with Carona Virus, prepare ourselves for the newly emerging global order which will be dominated by distancing, safety and hygiene issues and as travel and gatherings are banned, the travel and tourism sector is the biggest sufferer. Major destinations, be it for recreation and leisure in the hills or the seaside beaches, serene tea gardens or religious places – all are closed and as a result, the business and economic activities that were carried out in and around these tourist and religious places have come to a grinding halt and as a result, even major Shrines like Shri Tirupati Balaji had to retrench employees in thousands thus need of the hour is to equip ourselves for challenges which are expected to be faced about Tourism & Shri Vaishnodevi Yatra well in advance and may be able to revive our Tourism vis-a-vis economy once again. Mr. Anil Khaitan, Former President, PHD Chamber, said that while facing this pandemic we need to revive the economy and as fas as tourism are concerned, in our Country more than 50 % tourism is domestic tourism. He further stated that Katra has a vast infrastructure like Super Speciality Hospital, good Railway Station, Hotels, etc. and this infrastructure is required to be used efficiently and suggested that if we could make use of those Hotel Rooms for other purposes on the payable basis, it would be good. He further stated that for reviving the Pilgrimage tourism we need to build up confidence and this can be done by doing these practices. He further stated that connectivity to the country will play a major role in reviving this Pilgrimage Tourism. Mr. Rakesh Wazir, Chair, PHD Chamber Jammu Region Chapter, while starting the introductory session besides welcoming the Central leadership who had joined especially to Welcome the dignitaries said that the basic purpose of holding this Video Conference is to give proper feedback and suggestions to SMVDSB and said that pilgrims of Vaishnodevi Ji contribute vigorously towards the economy of not only J&K but adjoining states as well like Himachal Pardesh, Punjab, Haryana, etc. He said that 4 lac to 5 lac people are employed from Katra to Bhawan directly or indirectly and have become unemployed due to this Lockdown and a daily loss of INR 10-12 crores per day, which amounted to INR 700 crores in the past two months. The losses were not only limited to the local region but had also impacted businesses at several destinations in J&K and adjoining states which were usually part of the tourist/pilgrim itinerary. Mr. Rahul Sahai, Co-Chair Jammu Region Chapter, presented a formal vote of thanks to all the delegates and participants. He said that Jammu & Kashmir has been bestowed more with natural beauty than it’s being an industrial hub. It is for us to tap whatsoever natural resources and make this place tourist-friendly and thereby economically viable for its residents. All of us here from the commercial world will strive to make this place truly heaven here on earth. We have here religious tourism as well as rich flora and fauna to showcase to the world by the blessings of Mata Vaishno Devi Ji so that we may have both home and international tourism coming here and continue our struggle for that. The other esteemed delegates who deliberated in the webinar were Mr. Ajay K Bakaya, Managing Director, Sarovar Hotel & Resorts; Mr. Garish Oberoi, Former President, Federation of Hotel & Restaurant Association of India; Mr. Navin Berry, Chief Editor, Destination India Magazine & BITB Conclaves (Founder SATTE); Mr. Vikrant Kuthiala Former Chair, Mr. Mushtaq Chaya, Kashmir Region Mentor; Mr. Sham Lal Kesar, Chair HRAK; Mr. Kushal Magotra, Convenor (Head) Patnitop; Mr. Rakesh Sharma Press Club Katra; Mr. Arun Kumar President, Vikram Gupta Gen.Secretary, Director Radisson Blue Jammu, Mr. Siddhant Chowdhary, Director Ramada Jammu, and others. The webinar was also attended and deliberated by the senior management of PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry including; Mr. Kuldeep Gupta, Former Co-Chair Jammu Chapter; Mr. Mallika Verma, Director, PHDCCI: Mr. Varinder Kesar PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry Convenor (Head) Reasi District and others. The webinar was moderated by Mr. Mallika Verma, Director, PHD Chamber, and received extensive participation of more than 60 participation and industry stalwarts all over the country. Ends. Media Division PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry