VADODARA, INDIA, March 23, 2018 (Times of India): People from Gujarat planning to go on the Amarnath yatra this year, will have to shell out more money, with the state government issuing a new guideline making it mandatory for pilgrims using tour bus operators to wear bulletproof jackets. Less than a year after a terror strike in J&K’s Anantnag on a bus carrying pilgrims from Gujarat, the guideline also makes it mandatory for bus operators to ensure drivers’ age limit isn’t over 50 years. “The guideline to provide bulletproof jackets has come from the state home department. It is an advice,” RM Jadhav, transport commissioner, told TOI on Thursday.
But operators say buying the jackets is an extra for them, and pilgrims. “If we don’t follow the guideline, the state won’t give us permit for the tour. It involves paperwork and problems for us,” said a tour operator in Vadodara. “We will have to ask tourists to buy their own bulletproof jackets as we can’t afford it. A bulletproof jacket costs about US$184.50” says Siddique Gandhi, VP, Baroda Tours and Travels Association. Around 5,000-7,000 pilgrims register for the yatra from Gujarat every year. The number of unregistered yatris is nearly 35,000. Tour operators normally charge about $154 per person, Gandhi says, adding that many tourists won’t be able to shell out the extra money.