Helicopter Service From Jammu to Vaishno Devi Shrine Begins

   

JAMMU: The direct helicopter service from Jammu to the Mata Vaishno Devi temple began on Tuesday, facilitating pilgrims who wish to perform ‘darshan’ at the revered shrine within a day due to time constraints, officials said.

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Lt Governor pays obeisance at the Holy Shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi

This is in addition to the helicopter service which is already available between Katra, the base camp for the pilgrims visiting the famous shrine atop Trikuta hills in Reasi district, and Sanjhi Chhat near the temple with a one-way fare of Rs 2,100 per person.

Pilgrims opting for the service from Jammu can choose between two packages — Rs 35,000 per passenger for same day return and Rs 60,000 per person for next day return.

Marking the commencement of the new service, the first helicopter carrying pilgrims left Jammu airport at around 11 am and landed on Panchi helipad along the new trek to the shrine, the officials said.

“The service is part of continuous efforts to provide better facilities to the pilgrims visiting the shrine,” Anshul Garg, Chief Executive Officer of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board (SMVDSB), told reporters in Katra after the inauguration.

“We have been getting requests from the pilgrims from faraway places within the country and abroad, facing time constraints, for a direct service between Jammu and the shrine,” Garg added.

The new helicopter service was started on the directions of the shrine board chairman and Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha, according to the officials.

Garg said based on the operation’s feedback from the pilgrims, the board will be approached for its expansion in the future.

“The private service is introduced on pilot basis with two sorties so that the pilgrims can visit the shrine for darshan in the morning and return in the same flight in the evening at a cost of Rs 35,000 per passenger, which includes battery car service from Panchi to Bhawan, darshan and ropeway ticket to Bhairav temple,” the board CEO said.

“The second package offers next day return and the charges are Rs 60,000 per person. The service also includes participation in special prayers. So, there are two types of packages and a total of 25 people can avail this service daily,” Garg said.

He said the Panchi helipad, due to its lower elevation compared to Sanjhi Chhat, will be less affected by bad weather conditions.

“The next two months (monsoon period) will be a learning opportunity for us as well as the helicopter service operators which will help us to better understand and enhance the service further,” he added.

“The service is highly comfortable and we are feeling lucky to be among the first to avail it,” a pilgrim, who had come for darshan from Madhya Pradesh and accompanied by six family members, said.

He said the helicopter took off from Jammu at around 11 am and reached Katra in 10 minutes.

“The service is good for those facing time constraints, elderly and children,” the devotee, who wished not to be identified, said.

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