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J&K police starts massive drive to verify antecedents of labourers, agents in Katra

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Srinagar:  Jammu and Kashmir police have launched a massive exercise to verify the antecedents of thousands of labourers and hotel agents working in the  town of Katra in a bid to keep criminals and unscrupulous elements at bay.

Police said thousands of unregistered labourers and hotel agents are working in the Katra town, which houses the revered cave shrine of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi. 

 

As per sources, intelligence reports have suggested that militants are trying to re-establish bases in the upper reaches of the Reasi district which connects with Shopian and Kulgam of south Kashmir.

“We have busted modules in the upper reaches of Mahore. These areas connect with Shopian and Kulgam. Because of these things, we are on our toes. Plus militants are trying to find a foothold in Reasi which they had lost,” Rashmi Wazir, Senior Superintendent of Police, Reasi, told The Kashmir Monitor.

The verification drive was prompted by a murder incident in a local hotel at Katra. After a man was stabbed to death, the police were shocked to know that the hotel, which hired him as ‘Panda’ (agent), does not know his actual name and residential address.

“This was a wake-up call for us. Most of the Pandas and labourers working in Katra town are unregistered. No one knows their name or from where they have come. It was a very alarming situation. So we decided to conduct a background check. We first sensitized the hoteliers and asked them to issue identity cards. We also decided to conduct a background check of the people working here,” said Wazir.

Police figures reveal there are 500 hotels, lodges, and guesthouses in Katra town. “Hotels hire these pandas. Their job is to motivate guests to stay at the hotel where they are working. So far we have conducted a background check of  50 to 70 percent of pandas and laborers. Work is in progress to verify others,” she said.

Located at the altitude of 5200 feet in the Tirukta hills, the shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi Is one of the holiest pilgrimage places in Indian subcontinent. The yatries have to trek around 12 kilometers from the base camp to the Holy cave.

Millions of devotees visit the shrine every year to perform puja at the sanctum sanctorum. Official data reveal  17.20 lakh pilgrims visited the shrine in 2020 against 79.40 lakh yatris visited the shrine in 2019. Around 85.87 lakh pilgrims visited the shrine in 2018. 

“The shrine is very sensitive. It has always been on the radar. Every day 25000 pilgrims pay obeisance at the holy shrine. It is very important to ensure foolproof security and keep anti-national elements at bay,” said Wazir.