Vaishno Devi special tickets spark protests

June 2nd, 2008 - 2:45 pm ICT by admin  

Jammu, June 2 (IANS) The introduction of special tickets costing up to Rs.1,000 to bypass queues at the Vaishno Devi shrine in Jammu and Kashmir has fuelled protests, some calling it an act of “commercialization”. Spontaneous vocal protests erupted in the shrine area after it became known that the temple management had decided to charge Rs.200 to Rs.1,000 to let pilgrims avoid winding queues and easily access the shrine.

“Do the poor have no right to have a darshan of the deity?” asked Prem Kumar, an angry resident of Jaipur.

He was speaking to reporters at Katra, the base camp of the shrine nestled in the foothills of the Shivalik range of the Himalayas.

“How can the shrine management discriminate between the poor and rich?” asked a fuming Pushpa Devi, a pilgrim from Rambagh in Amritsar.

Some pilgrims raised slogans against the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board, which manages the temple.

Vaishno Devi is one of the most revered Hindu shrines in northern India. It gets about 25,000 pilgrims a day.

Rishi Kumar Koushal, a social activist, warned the management against “commercialization”. He said: “This is not hotel business. It is a divine place and everyone is equal before god.”

Koushal asked the shrine board to scrap the special fee.

The board started charging Rs.1,000 ($25) for special ‘atka darshan’ from those seeking priority entry to the cave shrine. This process started midnight Saturday, an official said.

‘Atka darshan’ allows pilgrims to sit through the prayers in the mornings and evenings in an area outside the cave. These pilgrims would be the first to enter the cave after the prayers finish.

According to the management, the idea behind the introduction of the special tickets is to discourage the practice of giving slips to a select few to jump the queues.

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