JAMMU: Prime Minister Narendra Modi threw open a new seven-kilometre track to Vaishnodevi shrine today, offering pilgrims an alternative route to the temple overlooking Katra township.
He opened Tarakota Marg and launched a ropeway to carry goods to the cave shrine of Mata Vaishnodevi through a remote inauguration at Zorawar Auditorium here.
Modi said places of worship like Vaishnodevi and Amarnath shrines were important for the state's economy.
"Lakhs of devotees come to these places," he said.
He said the government is making efforts to ensure that pilgrims get better facilities and people of the state are financially benefited.
"The train has reached Katra, the base camp of Mata Vaishnodevi.
Soon after taking over as a prime minister, I got an opportunity to inaugurate it," he said.
He said Tarakota Marg was the best way to the shrine for the devotees on foot.
The prime minister said the Mata Vasihno Devi Shrine Board is also constructing a ropeway to carry pilgrims, on the lines of the one he inaugurated to transport goods.
"It is being constructed at a cost of Rs 60 crore. It will completed very soon", he said, adding it will ferry 800 devotees per hour.
J&K Governor N N Vohra, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, Union ministers Nitin Gadkari and Jitendra Singh, and state ministers were at the event, part of the prime minister's day-long visit to the state.
Apart from Jammu, he visited Srinagar and Leh.
The track inaugurated today between Banganga and Ardhkuwari on the Vaishnodevi route was approved by the shrine board in February 2011.
It has cost Rs 80 crore and is meant help decongest the rush of pilgrims on the existing six-kilometre track.
A 'havan' (special prayer) was held earlier for the launch of the new track.
It offers pilgrims a cleaner and a more scenic route with two restaurants and seven toilet blocks equipped with facilities for the elderly and the disabled, shrine board's additional chief executive officer Anshul Garg said.
A medical unit with doctors and paramedics will work round the clock on the route.
The entire track is based on a ramp-type design without any steps, and has anti-skid tiles to make it an easier walk, the official said.
Sixteen 'water ATMs' have been installed, offering free filtered water.