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No Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, trade via Sikkim’s Nathula Pass this year amid COVID-19 pandemic

The Ministry of External Affairs organises the yatra from June-September each year through two different routes, Lipulekh Pass (Uttarakhand) and Nathu La Pass (Sikkim). 

SNS | New Delhi |

The Kailash Mansarovar Yatra in Tibet and border trade between India and China through the Nathula pass will not take place this year due to the coronavirus outbreak, Sikkim Tourism Minister BS Panth said on Wednesday. The border trade through Nathula Pass was scheduled to begin in May while the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra through the route was slated to commence in June.

The Ministry of External Affairs organises the yatra from June-September each year through two different routes, Lipulekh Pass (Uttarakhand) and Nathu La Pass (Sikkim).

The yatra is undertaken by hundreds of people every year. Panth told reporters on Wednesday that the state government has communicated its decision to the Centre.

The Nathula border trade between India and China resumed in 2006 after a gap of more than four decades while the annual Kailash Mansarovar Yatra through the pass had begun two years ago.

“Sikkim’s tourism sector has been severely hit due to the coronavirus outbreak, with the state government losing out revenue of more than Rs 10 crore,” the minister said.

The loss of revenue is due to the ban on entry of domestic and foreign tourists to the state since the first week of March in view of the coronavirus outbreak, he said.

The state government is assessing the losses incurred by various stakeholders due to COVID-19 and will send a report to the Centre, requesting it to adequately compensate all those who have lost business and livelihood due to disruption in tourism-related activities in Sikkim, the minister said.

Sikkim has not reported any coronavirus cases in the state till now.

It is also expected that the central government will cancel the Amarnath Yatra in  Kashmir as the pandemic continues to grip the nation. However, in a U-turn move the state government withdrew its notice to cancel the pilgrimage on Wednesday. A press note released on Wednesay said the pilgrimage scheduled from June 23 to August 3 was cancelled by the Amarnath shrine board during a video conference meeting. The decision on the annual pilgrimage would be taken soon after a review of the coronavirus situation, the board said later.