Non-availability of choppers for Machail Yatra sparks protest in Kishtwar’s Paddar village

Pilgrims today staged protest and shouted slogans against the administration as choppers, supposed to ferry them to Shri Mata Machail Temple, could not reach to the Gulabgarh base camp in Kishtwar district of Jammu and Kashmir.

”The yatra started from August 1 and devotees have started reaching to the Paddar village including those who have booked their chopper tickets,” an official here told Media Sources.

He said that due to inclement weather conditions, the Heli-Service providers could not make choppers available at the helipad in Paddar.

”Nearly four choppers were supposed to reach Paddar on scheduled time but they could not take off and reach Paddar,” he added.

”Yesterday one of the choppers flew from the starting point for Paddar but it had to return as it could not land due to bad weather conditions,” said a police official.

Meanwhile, pilgrims this morning demonstrated amid slogans against non-availability of chopper service.

”They were demanding beginning of the chopper service, which could be possible only after weather clears,” a police official from the spot here told UNI.

He said that the pilgrims, who have registered booking for the heli-service, are demonstrating demanding either chopper service or refunding of charges.

Pertinent to mention here that the rates for helicopter services from Gulabgarh to Machail from this year have been substantially reduced for the Machail Yatra scheduled from August 1 to 31.

Pilgrims above 12 years of age shall have to pay Rs 1,550, while the pilgrims aged between 2 to 12 years shall have to pay Rs 1,400.

The child up to two years shall be flown free of cost by the operators.

M/s Pawan Hans Ltd. and M/s UT Air India Pvt. Ltd were awarded contract this year for operating their helicopters to ferry pilgrims from Gulabgarh to Machail and back.

The heli services have been offered by the Government to facilitate the pilgrims in the rough and difficult terrain of Kishtwar valley.

”The beginning of heli-service will surely provide relief to old age, children and even sick people coming to pay obeisance to the Holy deity. It will also help in relief and rescue operations in case of any emergency,” a senior official said.