Pilgrims riding on ponies to the cave shrine of Mata Vaishnodevi in Trikuta hills of Jammu and Kashmir will now be equipped with helmets, knee and elbow guards to prevent injuries and The Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board on Tuesday introduced safety gadgets for the pony riders performing the Vaishno Devi pilgrimage from Katra town to Bhawan (holy cave shrine).
The move comes against the backdrop of few devotees, including an Army officer being killed and several others injured in the recent past after falling from ponies or due to shooting stones from hill tops.
While all pilgrims, including those trekking on foot, have been advised to wear safety gear, wearing of helmets has been made mandatory for pony riders.
The initiative is the brain child of CEO, Mata Vaishnodevi Shrine Board (SMVDSB), Simrandeep Singh.
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The Vaishnodevi shrine saw nearly 86 lakh devotees visiting the temple in 2018.
The Shrine Board has also installed Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tracking instruments in rice like chip on the ponies to keep surveillance on them through the track from Katra to Mata Vaishno Devi Ji shrine. The RFID tracking is useful from security point of view.
In 1986, when the board took over the affairs of the shrine for better management, the annual footfall was around 14 lakh. Since then, there has been a steady increase every year, with the number of pilgrims touching an all-time high of 1.05 crore in 2012, board officials said.