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Vaishno Devi yatra injects Rs 475 cr to Katra economy annually
Income from the annual pilgrimage to the holy cave shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi is set to cross Rs 72 lakhs in 2009. The economy of the base camp, viz., Katra, is driven by pilgrims. Infrastructure in and around Katra has to improve correspondingly.

INCOME FROM the annual pilgrimage to the holy cave-shrine of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi on Trikuta Hills is likely to touch a new high of Rs 72.28 lakhs in 2009 and Rs 86 lakhs in 2015, against 69.05 lakhs presently.  The pilgrimage has emerged as an economic boon for Katra, the base camp of the pilgrimage, generating an income of Rs 474.36 crores per annum, providing employment to about 27,000 people. The sum excludes the amount received by SMVDSB as offerings or donations as also the amount spent in Jammu, Patnitop or Kashmir.  This has been projected in a study conducted by Dr. S.K. Jain, Principal Investigator, Department of Management Studies, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi. The draft report, compiled over three years, was submitted to the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, Lt General (Retd) S K Sinha during a meeting of the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board.  The three-year study was carried out to analyze the impact of pilgrimage to the holy shrine of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Ji on the economy of Jammu & Kashmir with special reference to Katra.


The Governor, who is also the Chairman of SMVDSB, appreciated the effort; He said it would be a useful document for working out strategies by all those concerned with the Yatra to make the necessary improvements in infrastructure to cater to the requirements of the growing number of pilgrims.


Of the Rs 474.36 crores being injected into Katra’s economy, commercial establishments account for Rs 283. 66 crores; they are followed by the hospitality sector (comprised of hotels and lodging) which accounts for Rs 72. 15 crores; transport accounts for Rs 69.23 crores, ponywallas account for Rs 33.15 crores and pithus account for Rs 16.15 crores. Commercial establishments provide jobs to 7,781 people followed by the hospitality sector which employs 4,950 and the transport sector which employs 1,500. The pithus number 8,000 and the ponywallas number 4,747 persons.  According to the study, pilgrims prefer to throng the holy shrine in groups. Over 60% of the pilgrims arrive in groups of two to five. The average duration of stay of 46.4% pilgrims is 1 to 2 days; 36.4% stay up to 4 days; in other words, about 82.8% of the pilgrims stay for 1-4 days.  More than 50% of the pilgrims stay in hotels. About 65% of the pilgrims prefer to visit the shrine from March to June.  Over 75% prefer to visit the shrine during winter / summer vacations.  About 40% and 30% of the pilgrims visit Jammu and Patnitop, respectively, while visiting the holy shrine.  65% of the pilgrims stay for about 1-2 days whereas about 27% of the pilgrims stay for an extended period of 3-4 days.

As for the mode of transportation, the study reveals that about 42% of the pilgrims travel by train, 34% by bus and about 15% use their own vehicles. Similarly, 8% of the pilgrims use the pony, 3% use pithus, 2.7% use pithus and just 1% use palki while going up and coming down. Over 57% of the pilgrims spend Rs. 200-500 on pithus / palkis per head.


The study says that 82% of the pilgrims purchase pooja material near the holy shrine.  The average expenditure on pooja material is Rs. 136.52. Over 49% of the pilgrims donate less than Rs. 100/- to the Shrine Board and about 40% donate between Rs. 100-500. About 80% of the pilgrims donate less than Rs. 100/- to other temples, etc.


Pilgrims prefer to purchase dry fruits (26.7), religious items (16.3%), gift items (13.4%), souvenirs (7.3%), clothes (7.3%), woollens (7.6%) and toys (4%). The average daily revenue of the commercial establishments from pilgrims is Rs. 9,468/- during the lean season, Rs. 2,036.88 during the average season and Rs. 3,471.28 during the peak season.


The average value of sale of J&K-produced items during the lean, average and peak seasons is Rs. 1,046.45, 2,314.54 and Rs. 3,480.496 respectively. The average number of employees in a shop is 3 and the wages of a worker in a commercial establishment is Rs. 1,075.8. The average capacity utilization of a hotel per year is 52.44%.  In case of the hotel industry, the average number of persons in the administration department is 3 and in other departments, it is 12. The average turnover of a hotel is Rs. 13.52 lakhs per year. 


On an average, the monthly gross revenue of an auto operator is about 8,401/- and the net revenue is Rs. 2,388.33.  About 59% of the ponywallas make about 8 trips a week from Katra to the holy shrine.


About 52% of the ponywallas earn Rs. 375/- per day while the gross revenue per pony is Rs. 359.02 and the average expenditure per day on feeding a pony is Rs. 80.03. The average monthly income of a pithu is Rs. 3,722.50. Shrine-related tourism provides employment to 6,299 registered and 1,709 unregistered pithus and potters.  Only about 39% of the pithus are employed for more than 200 days.  The annual revenue generated by the pithus and potters is about Rs. 16.15 crores. About 4,743 registered ponies operate from Katra to the shrine.  The annual income generation is Rs. 3.16 crore.  The Chief Executive Officer of SMVDSB, Dr Arun Kumar and Additional CEO Puneet Kumar were among those present at the meeting.



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