Kailash Mansarovar yatra to begin as scheduled from Jun 1 : Govt.

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New Delhi, May 7 (UNI) The government today rubbished reports that the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra this year may be put off, saying the pilgrimage would take place as scheduled from June one and preparations had already begun.

''The Kailash Mansarovar Yatra that is conducted each year by the Government of India, will commence as scheduled on June one. The government has begun preparations for ths year's yatra alongwith the government of the People's Republic of China,'' External Affairs Ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna said.

He said the government had seen reports in a newspaper that te annual Kailash Mansarovar yatra may not take place this because the Chinese government has allegedly refused to grant visas to pilgrims.

Reports in a newspaper today, quoting informed sources, said the Chinese government was refusing to grant visas to Indian pilgrims allegedly over New Delhi's handling of the Tibetan unrest.

Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma had, on April 25, selected 960 pilgrims for the Yatra through a computerised draw of lots. The pilgrims will undertake the 26-day pilgrimage in 16 batches, each comprising 60 pilgrims.

The Kailash Mansarovar Yatra is organised by the External Affairs Ministry each year in coordination with various state and central government agencies and the Chinese government since 1981 under a bilateral arrangement between India and China.

The pilgrimage involves trekking through raduous terrain in the Himalayan ranges in the Tibet Autonomous Region at an altitude of upto 19,500 feet.

The Chinese side had agreed to increase the size of each batch from 44 to 60 yatris per batch, Mr Sharma had said after the draw of lots.

UNI RB MSJ US1840

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