"The term 'paid darshan' is a misnomer being used by many people unnecessarily. In fact, the new priority system that the Board is experimenting with is a mechanism to further streamline the yatra," a shrine board spokesman said here.
He said it was not intended to "commercialise" the yatra or earn more revenue as is being alleged by various organisations.
The shrine spokesman said the Board was examining the issue and on receiving feedback from officials handling the yatra, the decision will be reviewed. He added the Board always had a mechanism to issue priority slips to personnel of the army, police and other security forces in view of their nature of duties.
"Unfortunately, this system did not work satisfactorily, as some touts in connivance with corrupt officials started misusing these slips by providing them to general pilgrims for money," the spokesman said.
He said given the average inflow of about 30,000 pilgrims a day, security personnel used to get 1,000 to 1,500 priority slips for them and their immediate family members. Under the new system, the same number of slips are being issued, free to security personnel on showing identity cards but to other pilgrims on a payment of Rs 200.
"This seems to have worked well, as the number of priority slips issued daily since the inception of the new system has actually come down from 1,500 to 800," the spokesman said. "It will naturally ease the pressure on the general queues of pilgrims and provide relief to them. In any case, it will not ever be more than what it used to be prior to the introduction of the new system," the spokesman said.
On streamlining the yatra, the spokesman said at the instance of the Governor, Lieutenant General S K Sinha (retired), in his capacity as chairman of the board, a new system has been introduced wherein the group numbers of pilgrims keep scrolling on Plasma TV screens as at airports. The remaining pilgrims can wait in specially provided Bhojanalays' (restaurants) till their turn comes. This will ensure that people do not have to stand in queue for more than 20 minutes.