This has been the second death caused by shooting stones in the same area along the yatra during the past fortnight, sources said, adding that earlier a 10-year-old boy was killed and his mother injured when they were hit by a landslide. Due to frequent incidents of shooting stone from the adjoining hill for the past some time, the shelter shed near Gate No. 3 to the cave shrine has already been damaged.
Identifying the deceased as Harvinder Singh, head constable of the 6th Batallion, sources said that he was on duty in the area to prevent pilgrims from staying there in view of the threat of shooting stones. Police say that the efforts to retrieve his body from under the boulder were in progress. Sources said the casualties would have been much more but for sharp decline in number of Vaishno Devi pilgrims over the month.
Following incidents of shooting stones and landslides along the yatra track recently, five people have so far died and eight injured prompting Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board to ask M/s Tehri Hydro Development Corporation of India Limited (THDCIL) to undertake re-assessment of the entire yatra track and advise whether there is any other vulnerable area which requires to be taken up for stabilization. The THDCIL has been engaged by the Shrine Board to execute a Rs 77 crore project for stabilizing 33 sites along the yatra track in Trikuta hills which have been identified as most vulnerable to landslides and shooting stones.
Apart from this, the Shrine Board also approached the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) for conducting a security audit of various major infrastructure development projects being executed by it in the Trikute Hills. These include two ropeway projects and one for stabilization of hilly slopes along the 20 kms yatra track from Katra to Vaishno Devi shrine.
A high level DMRC team led by its Additional General Manager (Safety) Devendra Gill, in its report expressed satisfaction over the measures taken by Shrine Board in ensuring safety and security of the pilgrims, a SMVDSB release said. The audit followed a request by State Governor and Shrine Board Chairman N N Vohra to E Sreedharan who is a member of the board and is nationally renowned for his pioneering work to establish metro network in Delhi.