With heavy rush of unregistered Amarnath yatris making way to Pahalgam and Baltal base camps, Jammu and Kashmir tourism department has started issuing on-the-spot-permissions to tourists and pilgrims.
"In order to facilitate the tourists and locals to visit to Pahalgam and Sonmarg, the Department of Tourism has started on-the-spot-permissions at Tourist Reception Centre Srinagar," an official release of the tourism department said.
The release said tourists and locals other than Amarnath yatris, who want to visit these places for a day trip, should contact the the Tourism Department to obtain the permission in order to avoid any inconvenience.
Official sources said the decision to issue permission letters to tourists for visiting Pahalgam and Sonamarg was taken as large number of unregistered Amarnath pilgrims were reaching these places as tourists and trying to proceed for the yatra.
More than 23,000 unregistered pilgrims or those with registration for later dates were turned back from various access control gates in the first two days of the yatra.
Sources said a significant number of pilgrims succeeded in breaking through the access control gate at Chandanwari on first day of the pilgrimage in Friday.
However, officials of the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) did not respond to the queries about the incident.
The board, in a release yesterday, said it has set up 14 current registration counters at Pantha Chowk and TRC Nowgam for unregistered pilgrims to get registration.
Access control from the base camps has been strengthened this year on the directions of Supreme Court, which endorsed the recommendations of the Special High Powered Committee including not allowing any unregistered pilgrims to proceed towards the holy cave shrine.
While the helpline established by the SASB is at best dysfunctional with no information provided even about the yatra, the Chief Executive Officer and Additional CEO have refused to entertain queries from the media personnel.
"I cannot be answering questions from media every other minute. Please have mercy on us. We will be issuing press release every day in the evening," CEO of the SASB N K Choudhary said.
The Additional CEO P P Singh said only the CEO of the board is authorised to speak to the media on the yatra matters.
Some media personnel, who had gone to Pahalgam yesterday to cover the yatra, alleged that they were denied entry into the base camp area and asked to seek written permission from the SASB.
"This has happened for the first time in the past 14 years of my covering the yatra," a journalist working for national Hindi news channel said.