Katra, Aug 19: Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha on Saturday chaired the 71st meeting of the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board (SMVDSB) at Kakray in Reasi district, with the board granting in-principle approval for the establishment of a new 50-seat medical college.
The meeting was graced by distinguished members of the Board, including Mahamandleshwar Swami Vishveshvaranand Giriji Maharaj, Dr Ashok Bhan, Kul Bhushan Ahuja, Dr Neelam Sareen, K K Sharma, Suresh Kumar Sharma, and Raghu K. Mehta.
Dr Mandeep Kumar Bhandari, Principal Secretary to Lt Governor, and Anshul Garg, Chief Executive Officer of SMVDSB, were also in attendance.
During the meeting, the Board, led by Lt Governor Sinha, granted in-principle approval for the establishment of a new 50-seat Medical College at Kakryal. The proposed project is estimated to cost between Rs. 350-450 crore. The Board also recognized the need for expanding the operational capacity of SMVDNSH (Hospital of the Board) to cater to an increased number of patients requiring specialized treatment. As a result, an in-principle approval was granted to augment the existing Hospital capacity by 200 to 220 beds, at an approximate cost of Rs. 120 crore.
The Board extensively deliberated on various matters and ratified as many as 36 agenda items, which hold significant implications for the functioning of the Board and the enhancement of pilgrim services.
Lt Governor Sinha emphasized the importance of creating top-notch facilities that align with emerging requirements to ensure a memorable pilgrimage experience. Consequently, the Board granted in-principle approval for the construction of a new Yatri-cum-Staff accommodation at Bhawan, estimated to cost around Rs. 31.51 crore.
The meeting also involved a comprehensive review of major pilgrim-centric infrastructure projects, including the Skywalk, retrofitting and remodeling of Parvati Bhawan, and the expansion of the Atka area. The CEO of SMVDSB highlighted the accelerated progress of ongoing projects at Bhawan, projecting their completion ahead of the Shardiya Navratras. Efforts to streamline pilgrim movement for a hassle-free Darshan experience were also outlined.
In addition, the CEO was directed to expedite the construction and redevelopment of the Shankaracharya Temple, along with necessary track and allied facilities. The Lt Governor stressed the importance of engaging all stakeholders to resolve pending issues related to this endeavor. The CEO also briefed the Chair on various initiatives undertaken, including employee welfare measures, administrative and financial amendments, and disaster management preparations.
Addressing the budgetary aspect, the Board approved the Grant-in-Aid for FY 2023-24 in support of the SMVD Charitable Society, aimed at strengthening the functioning of peripheral institutions managed by the Board, such as Gurukul, Hospital, Sports Complex, and College of Nursing.
Lt Governor Sinha reaffirmed that pilgrim facilities remain the highest priority of the Board, underscoring the need for steps to ensure a hassle-free pilgrimage. He directed the CEO to facilitate online bookings for the passenger ropeway to enhance devotees' convenience while ensuring passenger safety.
On the sidelines of the meeting, Lt Governor Sinha, who also serves as the Chairman of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board, laid the e-foundation stones for Cottages and a mess Block near SMVD Sports Complex Katra, and for Staff accommodation at Banganga. These projects are set to be developed at an estimated cost of Rs. 14 crore. He also unveiled the redesigned Shrine Board website and released the Dogri translation of Panchtantra by Dr Neelam Sareen.