A surface calm this year was complimented by a ‘record number’ of tourists into Kashmir, lifting the economy hit by three consecutive summers of anti-India unrest.
The year 2011 witnessed an unparalleled rush of pilgrims to Amarnath cave which contributed in the melting of Shivling. The Yatra had to end 10 days before schedule. More than 6 lakhs people paid obeisance at the cave shrine in the Kashmir Himalayas.
N N Vohra, the Governor and chairman of the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) expressed satisfaction over the smooth conduct of the Yatra as there were no natural calamities during the 45-day-long Yatra. Ninetysix pilgrims died mostly due to cardiac arrest and pulmonary failure. And 143 registered ponies also died and 5,800 were injured while taking pilgrims to the shrine.
The SASB is being accused of compromising the recommendations Sengupta Committee that probed the 1996 incident in which mid-summer snowfall led to the death of 225 pilgrims. Apart from suggesting the constitution of SASB, the Committee had suggested permitting only 3500 pilgrims from the two tracks daily, but more than 20,000 made the daily journey.
The number of pilgrims visiting the Mata Vaishno shrine was much higher than Amarnath. This year a record number of over 80 lakh people visited till November.
For this year the J&K Tourism department had arranged different adventurous programs to attract more tourists. The number visiting Kashmir crossed thirteen lakh, both domestic and foreign. Ladakh, famous for its adventure tourism, has become the favorite destination and ranked 20th in Asia for most searched places on search engines. Three years back the number of visitors in Ladakh was 40,000 and for this year officials say around one lakh tourists visited the cold desert.