All the pilgrims who undertake the pilgrimage are automatically insured for an amount of Rs. one lakh against accidental death as soon as they proceed ahead of Darshani Darwaza. The premium for this insurance is paid by the Shrine Board.
All the ponies that ply on the track carrying the pilgrims from Katra to Bhawan and back are also insured as are the pony operators. In their case too the premium is paid by the Shrine Board.
The Board sometimes also distributes sweaters and hunter shoes amongst the pony and mule operators.
Free Aid to Pilgrims
In case any pilgrim is not carrying sufficient money to deposit as security for the blankets that he may wish to borrow for himself and his family, he can approach the S.D.M at Bhawan for the waiver of this requirement.
If a pilgrim runs short of money to reach home he/she can approach the Central Office of the Shrine Board which immediately provides the requisite amount.
In case a pilgrim dies while performing the yatra, and the family wishes to perform the last rites at Katra, the Shrine Board pays the money required for the cremation of the body. If, however, the family wishes to take the body to their home town for cremation, then the Shrine Board pays fifty percent of the cost of transporting the body by taxi to their home town.
The Shrine Board also provides grant-in-aid in the form of cash or kind to people or organizations in case of an emergency or a calamity.
The Shrine Board provides free lodging to most pilgrims at Adh Kwari and Bhawan. It also provides free blankets to the pilgrims and only expects the pilgrims to deposit a refundable security for them. However, no security is charged from the Sadhus who visit the holy Shrine. Indeed, the Shrine Board also provides free food to such Sadhus
Helping the Local Communities
The Shrine Board runs two Mahila Mandals, one each at Charan Paduka and Aghar Jitto, to provide a respectable means of livelihood to the ladies of the families of erstwhile Baridaars and some other ladies who used to beg for alms on the track earlier.
The Shrine Board has been constantly encouraging education in the area of its operation. It has funded the construction of a large number of school buildings in and around Katra. In fact, it sets apart funds for this purpose every year in its budget. It also provides uniforms and furniture to schools. Now it is preparing to set up the first Technical University in J&K. which is going to be a gigantic project and is likely to have far reaching consequences for the State.
The Shrine Board has also taken a decision to set up a Dogra Heritage Centre-cum-Museum to encourage and revive the various facets of the culture of the Dogras.
It has also provided fellowships, in the past , to a large number of scholars of Jammu University to carry out studies on Indian culture.
Honoring the heroes of Jammu
The Jammu-Katra-Reasi axis is replete with the history of Jammu region. The Shrine Board has tried to highlight some aspects of this. It has extensively repaired, renovated and reconstructed the memorial of Veer Ram Chandra at Bathera near Jammu. Veer Ram Chandra laid down his life while fighting for the cause of the down trodden sections of society.
The Shrine Board has also developed Aghar Jitto, the birth place of the revolutionary peasant, Baba Jitto. who laid down his life protesting against the tyranny of the feudal lords. Aghar Jitto is situated five kilometers beyond Katra on the Katra-Reasi road.
The Shrine Board has laid out a beautiful park around the temple of Baba Jitto.
A huge statue of Baba Jitto and his daughter has also been constructed in the park.
A Dharamshala has been constructed near the park to provide accommodation to such pilgrims who may wish to spend a night there.
A huge school building has also been constructed nearby for the children of the area. In addition, the Shrine Board has constructed a very large and modern shopping complex for the convenience of the people who visit Aghar Jitto.
A Mahila Mandal has also been set up here to provide respectable work for the women of the area. Besides, a telephone exchange has been instated here for the convenience of every one.
Another legendary hero of the area honoured by the Shrine Board is Zorawar Singh, the warrior general, who conquered Ladakh, Gilgit, Baltistan and parts of Tibet. Zorawar Singh settled down in Reasi, a town near Katra. The Bhim Garh fort in Reasi was the place where Zorawar first won his laurels. This fort was in a terrible state of disrepair and there were apprehensions that if repairs were not carried out urgently it could fall down. The Shrine Board took up the work of repairing and renovating this fort on a large scale in honour of the memory of this great warrior.
Besides repairing the fort, the Shrine Board has also laid out a huge park with extensive walk ways around the fort. Now the fort is also illuminated at night and the place has become a lovely spot, which attracts many people.
Restoration of Old Temples
The Shrine Board also took up work on developing some of the spots associated with the holy Shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi Ji. These include the temples of Kol Kandoli and Bhumika. The temple of Kol Kandoli is situated at a place called Nagrota, which is twelve kilometers from Jammu on the Jammu Katra road. This is a set of two ancient temples and they fell on the old route leading to Katra. According to legend, the Goddess lived here for many years as a child in the TRETA YUG before she moved to the base of the Trikuta Mountain and set up her Ashram there. The Shrine Board involved the Archaeological Survey of India while developing this temple complex because the outer surface of these temples had been heavily overlaid with very ugly cement plaster.This was carefully chiselled away by the experts of the ASI and the stone used to construct the temples was brought out in sharp relief.
In addition, a huge courtyard outside the temple was constructed with marble and a ceremonial gate was constructed at the entrance of the temple complex.
A few rooms were also constructed inside the temple premises for the use of the pilgrims.
The Shrine Board has only renovated and developed the temple complex. Its management, however, continues to remain with the people who were managing it earlier.
The Bhoomika temple is situated only two kilometres outside the town of Katra. It is believed to be the temple where Shridhar used to worship the Goddess before she gave him Darshan and he began to proceed to the holy Shrine for performing Puja everyday. The Shrine Board has extensively developed this temple and the area around it. Similarly, the Shrine Board is currently developing the temple of Raghunath Ji at Katra and Mahadev temple at Reasi.
Major Projects of the Future
The major schemes which the Shrine Board proposes to implement in the future are as under:
Construction of a Queue Complex at Bhawan to accommodate 5000 pilgrims at a time.
Redesigning the area of Vaishno Devi Ji.
Construction of sewage treatment plants at Bhawan, Adhkwari and Banganga.
Construction of a ropeway between Bhawan and Bhairo Ghati.
Making the alternate track between Bhawan and Adhkwari fully operational.
Constructing additional accommodation for pilgrims at Bhawan.
Installation of baggage x-Ray equipment at Bhawan.
Commissioning the second Bhojanalaya at Bhawan.
Constructing additional accomodation along the alternate track.
Enhancing the availability of drinking water at Bhawan and at different stations
enroute the holy Shrine.
Redeveloping the Adhkawari complex.
Constructing Shankaracharaya temple at Katra.
Constructing dormitory accommodation at Katra.
Constructing a new Darshani Darwaza at Katra.
Constructing a new pony stand at Katra.
Setting up a Technical University.
Setting up a Dogra heritage Centre cum Museum.
Setting up the Technical University and construction of the Queue Complex at Bhawan will, however, be very prestigious projects and will require a lot of time and money for completion.