Indian Kailash Mansarovar pilgrims stuck in Nepal

Indian pilgrims being evacuated from Simikot to Surkhet and Nepalganj, as authorities stepped up efforts to rescue those stranded there due to heavy rain while returning from the Kailash Mansarovar pilgrimage in Tibet in Simikot (PTI File Photo)

Nearly 200 Indians on their way back home from Kailash Mansarovar pilgrimage in Tibet are stuck in Nepal's Humla district due to alleged mismanagement by the private tour operators, pilgrims claimed Wednesday.

Every year, hundreds of Indians undertake the 'yatra' which involves trekking under inhospitable conditions. Holding significance for Hindus as the abode of Lord Shiva, it holds religious importance also for the Jains and the Buddhists.

The pilgrims are currently stuck in Hilsa town, near the Nepal-China border, where they reached from Burang in Tibet and were to immediately leave for Simikot by helicopter and then onwards to Nepalgunj, they said.

"When we reached here (Hilsa), we had to overstay because several people who had come here prior to us were made to overstay by the tour operators. They have been here for three days, they are getting to leave now and we will follow after that," Pankaj Bhatnagar, 40, said.

Bhatnagar, who hails from Derabassi in Punjab, said the facilities are inadequate to accommodate the number of pilgrims that are in Hilsa and intermittent rain is only compounding the troubles.

There are groups of people whose tour is being managed by different private operators who have outsourced the work locally, said Mayank Agarwal, 28, a pilgrim from Gurgaon in Haryana.

"There is no regulation in the number of people arriving here. The number of pilgrims being brought here is just increasing. The facilities are not even bare minimum. The tour operators are not responding," Agarwal, who accompanied his parents on the pilgrimage, told PTI over the phone.

Tour operators in India, however, said that the overstay of some pilgrims was caused as helicopter operations between Hilsa and Simikot had to be halted in view of bad weather.

"The flight operations there are totally dependent on weather. Now, with weather conditions improving, pilgrims are being sent to Simikot. However, those had arrived in Hilsa first will get to depart first, except in cases of a medical emergency and elderly people, who get preference. The movement is on and there is no problem," Yatish Kumar of Noida-based Global Connect Hospitality said.

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