New Delhi, May 16: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) today slammed the Jammu and Kashmir government for “open defiance” of its order on rehabilitation plan for horses and mules which have been barred from carrying pilgrims from Katra to the Vaishno Devi temple.
A bench headed by acting NGT Chaiperson Jawad Rahim warned the state government while taking exception over the submission of the counsel for the Jammu and Kashmir government that the issue was pending consideration before the state cabinet.
The green panel said it had penned down each and every step for the rehabilitation in its order and yet the state government has not complied with its direction.
“We have had enough. If you want to comply with our order, its okay. Otherwise we know how to get it done. You are mischievously frustrating the orders of the tribunal. We are pained by your conduct.
“The counsel for the state government has submitted a tabulated statement of timeline of events, the reading of which shows that there is open defiance of the orders of the tribunal. No progress has been made. Meetings after meetings have been held without any result,” the bench said.
The tribunal directed the state government to file a detailed affidavit on the rehabilitation plan before May 23, the next date of hearing.
It asked all stakeholders including representatives from Jammu and Kashmir government, Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board and association of mule owners to sit together and come out with a solution.
The tribunal had last year said that a new path be created to the shrine exclusively for pedestrians and battery-operated cars and directed that no horses or mules would be allowed on the new route to the shrine and these animals should be removed slowly from the old path as well.
It had ordered the state government to finalise the rehabilitation plan for horses and mules and directed that it be put in the public domain without any further delay.
However, the state government has failed to submit any plan till date.
The tribunal had earlier capped the number of pilgrims at Vaishno Devi at 50,000 per day and directed the authorities to impose a fine (environment compensation) of Rs 2,000 on anyone found littering the roads as well as the bus stop at the nearby Katra town.
It had made it clear that if the number of pilgrims exceeded the prescribed 50,000 cap, they would be stopped at Ardhkuwari or Katra town, considering that the Vaishno Devi Bhawan structure cannot accommodate more than 50,000 people.
The green panel’s directions came during the hearing of a plea filed by an activist activist Gauri Maulekhi seeking directions to stop the use of horses and ponies in Vaishno Devi shrine premises in Jammu, prompting the green panel to seek response from the government on the issue.
The petitioner had sought removal of horses and mules from the path to the shrine, saying it was dangerous for the pedestrians, especially the senior citizens.