There is a queue at Jammu Tawi railway station. It is around 12 noon, the people in line are the passengers who have just disembarked from the Begumpura Express, who are to be given entry only after conducting the mandatory Kovid test here. Half of the people in the 4-5 queues are those who have not put on masks and maximum those who have come on this day of Saturday to visit Vaishno Devi. This tribe of North Indian people consists of people from Punjab, Delhi, Haryana and UP. Suresh Verma, a resident of Krishnanagar, Lucknow, has come with his wife Manju on a visit to Vaishno Devi and considers the arrangement to be satisfactory that people are being tested for Covid before coming here. However, Suresh also expresses surprise at those people who are breaking social distancing in this crowd of dozens and the policemen standing at the station also do not give them any special preference.
not following covid guidelines
Suresh says, don’t know why people don’t wear masks…thousands of people are coming everyday..suppose someone gets infected and if he goes to Vaishno Devi’s crowd then how many will he infect. Even if it is not here, what if someone brought infection from a local there and roamed around without a mask?’ Surprised by Suresh’s words, two or three people standing behind me in the line quickly put on a mask… but it doesn’t have any effect on everyone else.
Understand what is procedure?
Before the process of testing Kovid, the passenger has to tell the name and mobile number. After this, you have to tell the place where you came from and where you want to go. If you have come to go to Vaishno Devi, then a slip is received from the room number 5 of the station, which is the room of a police officer. Mobile number has to be mentioned. After this, you have to tell the place where you came from and where you want to go.
Darshan can be done only through this important slip
A form is available at the tourist reception counter with the help of this slip. In this, the details have to be filled himself and then the officer standing there stamps it and says, ‘Only if you show this report, you have to get an entry in the temple.’ All the accompanying passengers keep the report neatly. To handle means someone with pocket money, some in wife’s purse, some in luggage bag, some keep it in such a way that if the report is lost, then you will be deprived of the sight of the mother. There is no fear of corona at the station, but people coming from other states are just afraid of what they will do if they are stopped from darshan if there is no report of corona. However, those who take care of this, 20 percent are seen, who stand in the crowd of the station only by wearing a mask.
Difficulty in getting bus at Jammu bus stand
The situation different from Jammu Tawi station is not even in front of the Jammu bus stand. A hoarding has been put up to enforce the rules of Corona, but implementing it in the crowd is a problem. On asking at a shop in front of the bus stand, the shopkeeper says – If you want a bus for Katra, then you go to Agge KC Plaza, from there both the bus and the buggy have to be found under the flyover. After a distance of about 600 meters, all vehicles are parked in front of KC Plaza, local small buses called Matador and private and government buses going to Reasi, Ramban, Udhampur.
The effect of increased petrol prices is clearly visible on the rent
There are claims of getting all the vehicles to go to Katra, but among the large number of passengers, the number of buses is less on Saturdays. The few buses that come, scoff at the claim of operating with 50 per cent capacity and after chocking, they start running with arbitrary fares. The total distance from Katra to Jammu is about 46 kms. A few months ago, the bus fare on this route ranged from Rs 60 to Rs 80. Now bus drivers charge 100 to 160 rupees. On the objection of a passenger, it is said that the car was closed in Corona. Now petrol has become Rs 101… sit down, or else get down.
‘Where is the corona report being sought’
The crowd at Katra bus stand is the same. Balbir Mangotra, who is looking for passengers to get a hotel at the bus station, says, he has a room with 500 and also with 5000. I asked… ‘Where is the corona report being sought’… Balbir says… have you got the test done, sirji… Chalo na… I have AC wala in one thousand… Right in front…. However, the corona report which has been asked to be brought here compulsorily .. there is no special arrangement to check it in the local hotels of Katra.
‘No one to check corona report’
In the evening, there is a huge crowd of Vaishno Devi pilgrims at the checkpost of Banganga. When I came here in the month of January, volunteers were deployed at this checkpost to check the body temperature of the people. However this is not the case this time. Dozens of people in line are seen without masks. This time there is no one at the counter of slip checking made at the check post, nor does anyone see here who is going to check the corona report.
Crowd is breaking all the rules of Corona
Yogesh Shukla, who came from Kanpur to collect his bag with an X-ray machine, says, ‘I have come after getting a test done from a private lab in Kanpur, the test has been done at the station also… half an hour in the line to get the report. Standing… there is no one here to even check the report.’ Megha Arora, a resident of Burari, Delhi, is also shocked to see the crowd standing at the check post with her mother, especially that the number of people wearing masks is more than 70 percent. From the crowd gathered to take photographs at the shops built on the paths of the travel track to the food and drink shops… the rules of Corona are nowhere.
Huge crowd is also seen outside the shops
The line at Charan Paduka temple, the Ardhkumari temple and till the stand of the pithus. A shopkeeper selling food items on a ladder built on the yatra track said that the crowd has increased due to locals, who come for darshan on Saturday-Sunday days. Amidst the raining water on the way to the temple, a huge crowd of people is seen outside a shop named ‘Sameer’ operated by the Shrine Board.
Social distancing is nowhere to be seen
On reaching the main building of the temple, this crowd increases further. There is a queue from outside the Manokamna Bhawan of the main building complex so that people can take prasad. The crowd is like in thousands. At a distance, more than 200 people are seen in the line of sight of the temple, that too around 12 o’clock in the night. In the morning this number increases further. There does not seem to be any social distancing being followed among the people in the line. In the pictures of Darshan in the crowd, there are children, women, old people and young people too.
No report is checked till the main building of the temple
These people have come here 2 months after the peak of the second wave of Corona has passed. People look careless. Every Saturday, Sunday, around 20 thousand people are coming to visit this temple of faith, but it is difficult to tell how many of them have the correct report of Corona. Conditions are rules on paper. No report is checked from passengers coming from other states from across the road to the main building of the temple.
Many big questions have been raised
On the journey track, Bhim Singh, a resident of Jotwara area of Jaipur, says that he had come to Jammu by Pooja Express but he did not have any corona test. The question is whether only those coming by any special train are being tested? There is also a question that why is it not being checked in spite of the necessity of the report among the thousands of people coming to Vaishno Devi? This question is big that if the crowd is increasing wildly on the journey track from buses, then why the crowd is not being controlled by setting the quota of the limit of visitors on the track as before?
[Attribution to NBT]