National Green Tribunal (NGT) has given a major order regarding visit in Vaishno Devi Temple. Others are advised to wait at Ardhukumari or Katra. The tribunal also directed authorities to gradually phase out use of horses and ponies from the old path and open the new path to the shrine from November 24, to be used only by pedestrians and battery-operated cars.
Once the 50,000 limit is reached, devotees will be stopped either in Ardhkuwari or in Katra town, NDTV reported.
The NGT has been examining the impact of religious tourism to areas close to the shrine, and said that the cap on the number of visitors was announced as the structural integrity of the cave shrine was being compromised by the burden of additional pilgrims.
Although millions of pilgrims continue to visit Vaishno Devi, Minister of State for Finance Ajay Nanda said that the terror strikes and natural disasters has reduced the number of visitors. Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine is one of the sacred places for Hindu devotees who also consider it to be one of the most auspicious.
The tribunal also issued directions that authorities impose a fine (environmental compensation) of Rs 2,000 on anyone found littering on the roads or the bus stop near Katra town. The plea, filed by activist Gauri Maulekhi, also claimed that the horses and mules on the path to the shrine were risky for pedestrians, especially senior citizens.