Identify and track, CRPF’s policy for Amarnath pilgrims

Srinagar: After last year’s attack on an unescorted bus of Amarnath pilgrims, the CRPF has this year adopted an “identify and track policy” for vehicles ferrying devotees to the annual cave shrine pilgrimage in Kashmir Himalayas beginning on Thursday.

To ensure identification, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), primarily responsible for the security of the pilgrims, in coordination with other state and Central agencies, has set up multiple Help Desks and Tourist Reception Centres so that non-registered vehicles being taken by Amarnath pilgrims can be pasted with radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags.

The RFID device uses radio waves to read and capture information stored on a tag attached to an object, CRPF’s 73 Battalion Commandant P.P. Pauly said. The tag is pasted on vehicles when an individual or tour operator registers to travel to Kashmir for Amarnath Yatra.

The RFID, the official said, help determine which vehicle is travelling on which route and its location at a given time.

So far 131 vehicles have been taggged with RFID.

To track the RFID tagged vehicles, four sub-monitoring stations have come up at diffrent routes heading towards the shrine cave through National Highway 44.

Two sub-stations are at Bemina and Bandha Chowk in Srinagar, said the officer, adding a centralised monitoring station was also functional to monitor the movement of these vehicles round the clock.

Devotees coming to Jammu and Kashmir for the 60-day long Amarnath pilgrimage are being alerted trough different modes, including these Help Desks and announcements on flights landing at Srinagar so that they don’t forget to tag their vehicles with the RFID device — a first of its kind initiative used for the journey ending on August 26.

Also, no vehicles carrying Amarnath yatris will be allowed to start from base camps at Pahalgam and Baltal after 2 p.m. in order to ensure that they reach Jawahar Tunnel, which connects Srinagar and Jammu, latest by 7 p.m.

Last year, on July 10, a bus carrying Amarnath pilgrims was attacked by terrorists on its way to Jammu from Baltal, resulting in the death of eight pilgrims and injuring many others.

The bus was not part of the convoy of registered Amarnath vehicles accompanied by CRPF escort and had stopped at Khanabal due to a flat tyre when it was attacked.

With more than two lakh pilgrims already having registered for the yatra, security arrangements are focused on ruling out any attempts at IED or grenade attacks.

Also, with Pakistan-based outfits like Jaish planning to push in terrorists with a specific mission to target the pilgrimage, the CRPF and Jammu and Kashmir Police are on maximum alert.

As many as 33,600 CRPF personnel are already deployed in Jammu and Kashmir including 238 companies — nearly 24,000 personnel — of the paramilitary force specially to provide security along the route to Amarnath cave situated at an altitude of 3,888 metre.

An additional 2,530 personnel of other paramilitary forces are also deployed on Pahalgam and Baltal routes.

A joint control room is functional to ensure coordinated security measures. The pilgrim camps will be supervised by a Superintendent of Police and a Senior Superintendent of Police. Drones will carry out aerial surveillance.