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Criminal Neglect by Travel agency almost kills a pilgrim to Kailash Manasarovar
A group of 50 pilgrims was cheated, mistreated and exposed to grave danger by their travel agency enroute to Kailash (in theHimalayas).
Hundreds of Hindu pilgrims attempt to visit Kailash Manasarovar – the abode of Lord Shiva and thus the holiest of all pilgrimage sites. These pilgrims are taken toChinaby travel agencies who have the license to organize tours and operate inChinafrom the Chinese government. When people go through these agencies their passports are not stamped by the Chinese government and separation from the group means they can be apprehended and prosecuted by Chinese government as aliens or illegal travellers. This procedure places pilgrim groups at the travel agencies’ mercy who promise the mountain and grudgingly deliver basic necessities like food, water and oxygen at high altitudes where smallest neglect can be fatal.
Recently, a group of 55 pilgrims were victim to such a travel agency, Shreshtha Holidays. The group was grossly ill treated and subjected to criminal neglect almost killing a pilgrim.
The group began its journey to Manasarovar on 31st May. Shreshtha Holidays promised the group amongst other amenities an adequate number of toilet tents, 1 jeep for every 4 pilgrims, an oxygen tank in each jeep, air compressor bags, medical aid and vegetarian food without onion and garlic (the group was of those Hindu Brahmins who consider onion and garlic inauspicious vegetables. The group chose Shreshtha Holidays over other agencies because it promised to provide onion garlic free food). We interviewed some members of this pilgrim group and the ground reality of how Shreshtha Holidays broke all its promises and ill treated these pilgrims including some old people and kids is shocking.
Kailash Manasarovar is at the terrible height of 14947.5 ft above mean sea level. An average human being begins to experience difficulty in breathing and height sickness at 3000m above sea level. Common sense dictates that an agent must carry ample oxygen for every member of the group but Shreshtha Holidays did not deem it necessary. When members of the group began to feel sick they realized there was not enough oxygen. A young boy of 19 years fainted due to lack of oxygen while another middle aged woman almost died due to lack of medical amenities.
The agent did not carry ample oxygen or air compressor bags. He didn’t even have a blood pressure monitor or a stethoscope. As altitudes increased, many travellers began feeling ill. One of the travellers, Mrs. Harsha, had to be admitted to a hospital due to a lack of oxygen and extremely low blood pressure. The travellers approached the agent to help with the transporation and admission of Mrs. Harsha to the hospital, but they found him drunk, incoherent, and useless to any cause; this happened frequently throughout the trip. Mrs. Harsha’s condition would not have worsened as it did if they could have measured her blood pressure earlier and not proceeded to higher altitudes.
At high altitudes, doctors advise travellers to drink plenty of water and pass urine as often as they can. If Mrs. Harsha and many others in the group could have done that much sickness and discomfort could have been avoided. However, the travellers had to ration their drinking water as the agency did not provide them enough drinking water!
The pilgrims were promised that adequate medical help would be available at all times. Not only did that promise turn out false but the group realized to their utter horror that they could not inform the Chinese doctors names of drugs they were allergic to as they had Chinese names in China. Members of the group we interviewed said if they had known they could have researched and found out the Chinese names of drugs they were allergic to. While all members suffered from altitude sickness, Mrs. Harsha’s condition worsened to such degree that her family had to hire a helicopter to bring her down to lower altitude. As we report this she is still under medical observation and her family fears she could have suffered a silent heart attack.
We interviewed the young daughter of Mrs. Harsha (name withheld due to sensitivity) who said she was afraid she would lose her mother. She also informed us (corroborated by other group members) that the Agent was rude, lethargic and callous when asked to help the family procure a helicopter. The family had to pay almost 12,000 US dollars to procure the helicopter. She also said when they asked the Agent if the family of 4 could go together in the copter Agent said yes but when the copter came the pilot refused to allow this young girl and her old grandmother to sit in the copter with her parents. This young lady (daughter of Mrs. Harsha) said to us :
“It is ironical that in God’s land my mother was saved by power of money. I am glad it was my mother who suffered and not mother of those who could not have afforded that copter which saved my Mom’s life.”
This is an outright case of criminal neglect and deficiency in services. We support the group of 55 pilgrims and any other pilgrim who might have faced such adversities during their travel to Manasarovar and encourage them to write to us about their experiences.
The group has written letters to the Indian embassy inChinaand intends to criminally prosecute the agency. Below is a copy of one of the letters sent to the Embassy from the group: