Dressed in colourful attire, faces decked up with contrasting make up, standing on their legs large number of children, hungry and thirsty, waited for almost five long hours for the VVIPs including Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand and Tourism Minister GA Mir to arrive in Katra to inaugurate the nine day long Navratra festival.
On the invitation cards the organisers of the festival had mentioned 11.00 a.m as the time of inauguration but on saturday the chief guest and other dignitaries arrived well past 3.00 p.m to cut the customary ribbon before formally inaugurating the festival.
The hapless children drawn from various nearby schools helplessly waited and tasted the mismanagement on the part of organisers for over five long hours.
This is not for the first time the VVIP’s arrived late. It has become a routine practice for senior ministers to arrive late at the venue and keep every one including small children on their toes.
Even after the inauguration ceremony and the traditional lighting of the lamp the miseries of the children were far from over. They had to participate in the attractive Shobha Yatra depicting the rich cultural heritage of the state amidst spiritual ambiance.
The congregation witnessed participation of a large number of pilgrims from across the country and abroad, school children, cultural troupes and tableau. The helicopters showered flower petals on the procession adding colours to the occasion.
Extending greetings to the people in general and pilgrims in particular on holy Navratras, the Deputy Chief Minister said that the Navratra festival provides an opportunity to the visiting yatris from various corners of the country and abroad to have a glimpse of the rich cultural heritage of Jammu and Kashmir based on the peaceful co-existence of people of different faiths.
Mr. Tara Chand lauded the efforts of state tourism department for diverting Shri Vaishno Devi Ji Pilgrims to different tourist destinations for the promotion of tourism industry. He said work on artificial lake, cable car project at Bahu Fort, beautification of Mubarkh Mandi Complex and expansion of the Jammu Airport is under process for attracting more tourists to Jammu division.
Dy. CM said that Rail service to the holy town Katra would be started soon adding that with the train coming to Katra the Yatris will have the added facilities for performing the pilgrimage to Shri Mata Vaishno Devi.
He also assured that problems like water supply, solid waste management and other similar issues of Katra town related to the smooth flow of Yatra would also be given due consideration for their early redressal.
Minister for Tourism, Mr. G.A. Mir, while speaking on the occasion, extended his greetings to the people on the auspicious occasion of holy Navratras. He said it was all due to the blessings of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Ji that over 1.25 crore pilgrims visited at the holy cave shrine which supplement the tourism industry in the state in a big way.
Describing the Festivals as means to promote mutual brotherhood, composite culture and secularism, the Minister for Tourism said that the events, like the Navratra Festival provides and opportunity to the people of different faiths to share the joys. He said public cooperation is imperative for making such event a great success. Mr. Mir announced Rs 10 Lakh enhancement in the budget of the Navratra festival.
MLA Reasi, Mr. Baldev Raj Sharma and MLC Mr. Jugal Kishore Sharma also spoke on the occasion and assured all out help for smooth conduct of the Navratra Festival Katra. They also put forth various demands for the development of Katra and its adjoining areas like separate higher secondary school for girls, creation of new administrative units in Reasi district.
Divisional Commissioner Jammu, Mr. Shantmanu, who is also the Chairman of the Navratra Festival Celebration Committee, gave a resume of various events going to be held during the Navratra days and said that efforts are being made to organise this festival on bigger scale to attract more and more pilgrims. He also appreciated the efforts of all coordinating agencies for extending their cooperation in making the event successful.
Director Tourism, Jammu, Mr. Soujanya Sharma delivered welcome address, while Deputy Commissioner Reasi, Dr Shahid Iqbal Choudary presented vote of thanks.
As part of the festival, Shobha yatra cum cultural procession will be taken out from Asia Chowk at 7.30 p.m., All India Devotional Song Competition will be held at Shri Yog Ashram Air Strip, Katra at 8 p m and cultural programme will be arranged by the Song and Drama Division at GHSS, Katra at 8.30 p.m. daily.
Similarly, religious discourses on the Ramayana and Bhagwat Gita will be held at Raghunath Mandir from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m, Hasya Vyang Competition at Durga Bhawan Katra on October 09 to October 11 at 8.30 p.m daily and wrestling competition will be held at Multipurpose Sports Stadium, Katra on October 11 from 12 noon to 6 p.m. Talent Show for blind children would also be held n October 12 in the premises of GHSS, Katra at 11 a.m.
Exhibition of Departmental stalls would be held at GHSS, Katra. Cultural programme and awareness rallies would also be taken out by the school childrens during the festival.
Joint Director Information, Jammu, Samita Sethi, SP, Reasi, Mr. Sharief Chouhan, SP Katra, Mr. Pawan Parihar, senior officers of different departments, members of Navratra Celebration Committee, prominent citizens and large number of devotees were present on the occasion.