‘Shocking to see 83-year-old woman on her own to Mt Kailash’

June 10th, 2009 - 5:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party Kathmandu, June 10 (IANS) As details start to come in about the casualties among Indians who went on a pilgrimage to Mount Kailash and the Mansarovar lake, the picture emerges of appalling ignorance about the weather conditions in Tibet and the hardship the land journey entails.
“We were shocked to see an 83-year-old woman going on her own,” said a pilgrim who identified himself as Ravi and who was part of a group of people from south India that returned to Kathmandu from the gruelling journey this week with one casualty — the 83-year-old woman who was not escorted by any relatives or friends.

The woman, Sarala Devi from Ghantasala, Chennai, fell ill at the base camp of Mt Kailash and subsequently died. Her body was brought to Kathmandu where her son and daughter arrived this week to receive it.

The 83-year-old was cremated at the Arryaghat at the Pashupatinath temple here.

Ravi says the sight of Sarala Devi coming alone shocked the entire group.

At the foot of the 6,638-metre mountain, the temperature dropped to minus 5 degrees and a torrential wind buffeted the pilgrims. The high altitude, freezing cold as well as the exhausting overland journey and advanced age contributed to Sarala Devi’s death.

The Maharajgunj Teaching Hospital, where some of the dead pilgrims were brought for post-mortem, has identified four victims.

They are 61-year-old Damodar Das Agrawal from Varanasi, 44-year-old Pushpalata Bete Gowda of Chhanpatna, Karnataka, R.V. Umakanthan, 57, from Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, and Srikanthaiya D. Subbaiya, 64, from Dodaballapur, Karnataka.

The Indian embassy in Kathmandu confirmed the four deaths as well as that of Tushar Murti Pandey from Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh.

At least 10 Indians were killed while attempting to undertake the pilgrimage to Mount Kailash in Tibet and the nearby Mansarovar lake, venerated by Hindus, Buddhists and Jains alike.

On Wednesday, the Nepal Army flew back a group of 14 people, including 12 women, to Lucknow. They had been brought from Simikot in north Nepal to Nepalgunj district Tuesday, police said.

The plight of hundreds of pilgrims stranded during the Kailash pilgrimage was brought to the notice of the Indian government by the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Tuesday.

Its lawmakers Sushma Swaraj and Balbir Punj raised the issue in parliament and said the government should undertake rescue measures in consultation with authorities in Nepal and China.

The Indian embassy said it was coordinating with the district authorities and the army to open blocked roads and air-rescue those needing immediate attention.

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