MEA invites applications for this year’s pilgrimage, the route via Sikkim is new attraction
GN Bureau | February 20, 2015
Ever since the announcement that a new route to Kailash Mansarovar will be opened this year, enthusiasts and aspirants were waiting for the application process. The ministry of external affairs (MEA), which facilitates this pilgrimage, invites applications in late January every year. After a bit of delay, the process is on now as external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj briefed the media about this year’s plans.
Here is a brief explainer for the yatra aspirants:
Who can apply?
The only eligibility conditions are: (1) you must have a valid Indian passport, (2) you have to be between 18 and 70 years of age as on January 1, 2015, and (3) you must have a body mass index (BMI) of 27 or less, indicating physical and medical fitness.
How can one apply?
It has been made easy this time: there is an online facility for application. It is available here, with all instructions: http://kmy.gov.in/kmy/onlineYatri.do?lang=en_US The last date is April 10.
When will the yatra take place?
The first batch will leave Delhi on June 8, and the last batch will return on September 9, weather permitting.
What is new this time?
Since the early 1980s when the pilgrimage resumed under an India-China agreement after a long break, the route has been through Uttarakhand, crossing into China via the challenging Lipulekh Pass. For years, there were talks of exploring alternative routes. It is this year that the second route, through Nathu La in Sikkim will open. In fact, this year, the yatra will proceed on two routes.
What’s the difference between the two routes?
The Uttarakhand route will take 25 days, while the Sikkim one will take 23 days. The first route will have 18 batches of about 60 yatris (the number may vary), like previous years. The new route will have five batches of 50 people. While the Sikkim route has the novelty value for old-timers, it is to be done mostly by bus – only the Kailash and Manas parikrama will involve trekking. On the other hand, the old route remains involves more trekking and thus remains more challenging (and hence more exciting).
How much does it cost?
Rs. 1.5 lakh per person for the Uttarakhand route, and Rs. 1.7 lakh for the new route. (That is what you pay to authorities; the special gear and stuff that you need to buy for the arduous journey and extreme cold will cost a few thousand rupees too.)
What are the chances of selection?
Yatris are selected and assigned to routes and batches through a computer-generated random selection process. Since the overall intake this year has increased (roughly by 250 people), chances this year are better. On the other hand, previous yatris will be enthused to explore the new route, adding to the number of applicants. Still, all said and done, getting selected is less miraculous than it seems.
What about physical fitness?
Physical fitness is crucial for this highly demanding journey. Since a couple of points on the route are at a height of 19,500 feet, fitness is literally a matter of life and death. The selected applicants will have to undergo medical tests in Delhi twice, and then also once more before crossing the border.
What if I am not selected?
What we are talking about above is the pilgrimage organized by the government. Then there are many private tour operators who can help you do the pilgrimage, from Kathmandu. With them, there are fewer restrictions – no draw of lots, no medical tests. However, it also means more risk, whereas the government restrictions are meant to better ensure your safety. Also, the private route is not worth recommending: you miss out on exploring the whole cross-section of the Himalayas.
Where can I get more information?
The website is http://kmy.gov.in/, and the MEA helpline number is 011-24300655.
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