JAMMU: An alternate seven-kilometre track to the Vaishno Devi shrine, atop a hillock overlooking Katra township in Reasi district of Jammu and Kashmir, was today thrown open to pilgrims, officials said.
Tarakote Marg will, however, be formally inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 19, they said.
Jammu and Kashmir Governor N N Vohra, who is also the chairman of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board (SMVSB), travelled on the track during a visit to the shrine yesterday and reviewed the preparedness for its operationalisation.
The board had approved in February 2011 Vohra's proposal to construct an alternate track between Banganga and Adhkuwari, to decongest the rush of pilgrims on the existing six km track.
"The track, which was completed in seven years at a cost of Rs 80 crore, was opened for pilgrims this afternoon. It will be formally inaugurated by Prime Minister on May 19," Additional Chief Executive Officer of SMVSB Anshul Garg told PTI.
He said a 'havan' (special prayer) was held ahead of throwing open the track, which is six meters wide and has a comfortable gradient and very attractive wayside amenities.
The Tarakote Marg provides pedestrian pilgrims a cleaner and scenic route which has two 'bhojanalayas' as well as seven toilet blocks equipped with facilities for the elderly and the specially-abled, Garg said.
A medical unit with doctors, paramedics, medicines and equipment had been established to facilitate pilgrims round-the-clock.
The entire track is based on a ramp type design, without any steps and has an average and smooth gradient of one in 12 which, with interlocking antiskid tiles, makes it easier for walking, he said.
To provide high quality filtered drinking water free of cost to the pilgrims, 16 Water ATMs have been installed at approximate intervals of 400-500 meters, Garg said.
Vohra yesterday inspected the various major infrastructure development projects and facilities under execution for promoting the convenience of pilgrims to the shrine.
The Governor reviewed the upcoming Siar Dabri-Bhawan Material ropeway which is being installed at a cost of Rs 12 crore.
The trial runs of the ropeway are scheduled to commence within the next few days, an official spokesman said.
He said the material ropeway with a span of three km has a carrying capacity of five tons of material per hour.
Vohra directed the board to ensure effective utilisation of this exceptional facility which would enormously reduce the logistics of ferrying materials and food stuffs on the Yatra tracks and thereby enhance the convenience of pilgrims.
Vohra also extensively reviewed the work on the upcoming passenger ropeway being installed between Bhawan and Bhairon Ghati at a cost of Rs 60 crore, the spokesman said.
He inspected the waiting hall for the passengers, Automated Fare Collection System and other facilities for the pilgrims; walked down the Lower Terminal of the ropeway and took stock of the safety measures for the commuters.