First-time pilgrims get preference for Mansarovar Yatra

The selection is a fair computer-generated, random gender-balanced selection process, the MEA said in a statement

Computerised draw of lots for selecting pilgrims for the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra was held here on Wednesday, in which, for the first time, preference for fresh applicants or route choice of senior citizens was incorporated into the software, Ministry of External Affairs officials said.

Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale, who presided over the draw of lots held at the Jawaharlal Nehru Bhawan, urged pilgrims to help “protect and preserve” the fragile environment of the Himalayas.

The MEA organises the Yatra during June to September annually through two different routes — Lipulekh Pass in Uttarakhand and Nathu La Pass in Sikkim. Known for its religious value and cultural significance, it is undertaken by hundreds of people every year.

624 senior citizens

For this year’s Yatra, the Ministry received 2,996 applications, out of which 2,256 are male. As many as 624 senior citizens had applied.

For the Lipulekh route, there are 18 batches with 60 pilgrims per batch and for Nathu La, 10 batches with 50 yatris per batch. Two liaison officers will assist each batch.

“It is our endeavour to provide a chance to the first-time applicants. And, of course, to senior citizens as well,” Mr. Gokhale said.

“We also have a helpline now for the applicants. And, emails received from them are regularly monitored and applicants are suitably advised in a time-bound way,” he added.

The selection is a fair computer-generated, random gender-balanced selection process, the MEA said in a statement, adding, the selected yatris are informed through mobile text messages and email.

“Since 2015, the entire process commencing with online application till selection of the yatris is fully computerised. The feedback options on the website can be used for obtaining information, registering observations or suggestions for improvement,” it said.

The Yatra involves trekking at high altitudes of up to 19,500 feet, under inhospitable conditions, including extreme weather, and rugged terrain, and may prove hazardous for those who are not physically and medically fit.

Mr. Gokhale urged the yatris to strictly observe safety norms, for themselves and also for their fellow pilgrims.

Sushma Katarai was delighted after the draw. She said, “It is a like a dream come true for me.”

Varun Khandelwal, a Delhi-based pilot, who was put on the waiting list after the draw, said, “I am hoping I will make it eventually.”

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