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Srinagar: Notwithstanding the rising coronavirus cases in J&K, authorities Friday performed the ‘Pratham Pooja’ in Jammu marking the beginning of this year’s annual Amarnath Yatra.

The Pooja for the pilgrimage was performed in the morning on the occasion of Jayesth Purnima at Shri Chaitaniya Ashram, Talab Tillo.

Normally, the ceremony marks the start of the Amarnath Yatra which spans nearly two months. However, this year, according to reports, the yatra is likely to begin in the last week of July and its duration shortened to 15 days due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Pratham Pooja was conducted by principal secretary to Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor and CEO of Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) Bipul Pathak, and SASB Additional CEO A K Soni.

VHP, working president, Rajesh Gupta too was present on the occasion.

“The yatra will be conducted with social distancing measures and other SOPs in place,” Pathak replied to a question about the commencement of the pilgrimage to the 3880-metre high cave shrine this year.

He said the yatra may take place after taking into consideration all possibilities.

“There are some problems. There is a shortage of labourers due to lockdown and preparations are still on,” he said.

According to reports, helicopters are likely to be used for the yatra and it will conclude on August 3.

STATEMENT ANNOUNCING YATRA CANCELLATION CANCELLED WITHIN MINUTES

On April 22, within minutes of Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) announcing cancellation of the Amarnath Yatra 2020 due to coronavirus pandemic, the Jammu and Kashmir administration cancelled and withdrew the pressnote.

However, nothing else was said, giving rise to uncertainty over the 42-day-long yatra which was scheduled to commence from the twin tracks of Pahalgam in Anantnag district and Baltal in Ganderbal district on June 23.

In an official statement titled “Shri Amarnathji Yatra 2020 cancelled due to outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic”, a spokesman then said that the decision was taken at the 38th Board meeting of the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) which met under the chairmanship of Lt Governor G C Murmu at Raj Bhavan here.

However, within half an hour, another official statement was issued then which read, “The Press Note titled Shri Amarnathji Yatra 2020 cancelled due to outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic released vide No: PR/DI/19/7062/ may kindly be treated cancelled and withdrawn.

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