Border closure by China benefits Nepal as Indian Pilgrims choose air ways via Nepal to go Mansarovar

12th Aug, 2017 | Tourism Mail Crew

KATHMANDU, August 12: The border stand- off between India and China has closed the border in the Doklam plateau halting the flow of Indian Pilgrims to Kailash Mansarovar using the Chinese territory which in turn has benefited Nepal as pilgrims choose air service via Nepali air route.

The number of air passengers has swelled in Nepalgunj- Humla sector as Indian tourists travelling to Kailas Manasarovar in China took air route via Nepal.

Indian travelers usually fly from Nepalgunj to Simikot, Humla by fixed-wing aircraft and then take a helicopter to Hilsa which lies on the border with Tibet, China.

Although the airlines companies offering flight service to the Nepalgunj-Simikot sector are enjoying a bonanza with the increased traffic from Indian pilgrims, Karnali locals as well as tourists are struggling to get tickets to reach their destinations.

This has caused frustration at Nepalgunj airport. Tempers have flared as Indian tourists and locals look to one up each other in order to get onto a flight.

While Karnali locals have been blaming the private airlines companies for ignoring them and prioritising the tourists who are willing to pay a higher fare. On the other hand, Indian tourists are complaining that the airlines have stranded them at Nepalgunj airport for a week.

At times, the disputes have escalated to a point where police have been called to intervene. One such incident occurred on Saturday, when passengers surrounded airline employees, trying to intimidate them into booking flights.

Indian passengers travelling to Kailas Manasarovar asked the airlines to prioritise them whereas locals of Humla demanded that they should be allowed to return their home first. Later, the police intervened and pacified the situation.

Hundreds of Indian pilgrims take part in Kailash Mansarovar Yatra every year via Nepal in the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China during this time of the year. Before the tourist season, there used to be meager 3 to 4 flights daily to Simikot from Nepalgunj airport. However, with the surge in number of Indian pilgrims, private airlines have arranged two dozen flights every day to carry pilgrims to the holy spot which is revered by Hindus and Buddhists alike.

Indian tourists complained that they are not getting flights even after booking their tickets over a week ago.

“We have been trying to get onto a flight for two days but we aren’t sure when we will reach Manasarovar,” said an Indian tourist. “Airlines are procrastinating our flight.”

Karna Budha of Humla on the other hand complained that he also booked the ticket a week ago to travel to his home but has not got a flight yet. “They prioritise Indian tourists in every flight,” he said. “Indians are ready to pay higher fare and the private airlines only care about money.”

Airlines operator, however, defended themselves by saying that the ongoing chaos is because of the bad weather which prevailed most of the time last week. “Majority of the flights were canceled last week due to bad weather piling up the number of passengers,” said Pankaj Shah, Nepalgunj Chief of Sita Airlines. “As the flying condition has improved, there will not be much pressure this week.”