New Delhi: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday announced that the Nathu La pass has been reopened for the annual Kailash Mansarovar Yatra. China had shut down the Nathu La pass in Sikkim and denied entry to the Kailash Mansoravar (located in Tibet) pilgrims last year due to the 73-day-long standoff in Doklam between troops of India and China at the border on account of security reasons.
“I had told Chinese Foreign Ministry that relations between governments cannot prosper until people-to-people relations are improved when the Nathu La pass was closed during last yatra it came as a blow to people. I am happy to announce that it has now been opened for yatra,” Swaraj said as she presided over the computerised draw of lots for the selection of pilgrims for the yatra.
Those selected through the computerised draw of lots will be informed through SMS and email. After the draw of lots, the pilgrims can seek changes in their batch by sending their request online or by calling the designated number, she said.
The four-month travel period to the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra starts from June 8. Four members of a family will also be able to go in the same batch keeping in mind the concerns of applicants for their family members.
As in the previous years, first time applicants, medical doctors, and married couples have been given priority.
Eighteen batches of the 60 pilgrims each will take the Lipulekh Pass route, while 10 batches, comprising 50 pilgrims each, will take the Nathu La route. The former is known to be more arduous.
The route through the Lipulekh Pass (Uttarakhand), which involves some trekking, is estimated to cost about Rs. 1.6 lakh per person. The duration of the yatra is 24 days for each batch, including three days in Delhi, for preparatory work. This route passes through important sites like Narayan Ashram and Patal Bhuvaneshwar.
The pilgrims can also see the scenic beauty of Chialekh Valley, or the Om Parvat’ which has the natural occurrence of snow in the shape of Om’ on this mountain.
The route through the Nathu La Pass (Sikkim) is motorable and suitable for senior citizens unable to undertake arduous trekking.
From Gangtok, the route passes through scenic places like the Hangu lake, and through the vast landscape of the Tibetan plateau. It is estimated to cost about Rs. 2 lakh per person, and duration would be 21 days, including three days in Delhi, for preparatory work.