Pune: Union Minister of Commerce and Industry and Civil Aviation Suresh Prabhu’s office came to the rescue of 58 pilgrims, including two women police officers from Pune enroute to Kailash Mansarovar, who got stranded at Temuri village located 1.5 km from Indo-China border in Nepal.
Following Prabhu’s successful intervention, the tourists are likely to embark on their remaining pilgrimage from Tuesday. Over 80 per cent members of this group are senior citizens and are from Mumbai, Sangli and Belgaum, besides Pune.
According to the tourists, they contacted Prabhu’s office on Monday morning after spending two days at Temuri village with no credible information coming from city-based Raghukul Holidays, a company which has made their travel arrangements.
They said they were made to suffer as the company defaulted on the payment to the tune of Rs 54 lakh to The Trekkers Society Pvt Ltd, a travel company in Nepal. The Nepali company asked them to clear the dues while Raghukul Holidays expressed its inability to do so.
The stranded pilgrims collected Rs 40 lakh on their own to pay the tourist company in Nepal in order to complete the travel. But since the company did not budge, they contacted Prabhu.
Dilip Chavare (68), a former journalist who is also a part of this group, said that they arrived in a village of Solukhumbu district in the Sagarmatha Zone of north-eastern Nepal on Saturday night. Since then, they were waiting to cross the Indo-China border. Chavare said the travel company started making contrasting claims.
He said, “We spent seven hours in the scorching sun in Solukhumbu district till late Sunday afternoon on the street waiting to receive further instructions from the travel company in Nepal. All this while, our travel company kept us in the dark about the non-payment of dues.”
Chavare said that they were supposed to cross the border on Sunday morning. He added that upon repeatedly asking they were told that the travel company in Nepal had denied arranging their further travel till their dues worth Rs 54 lakh were cleared.
Chavare added that it all happened even after all 58 tourists had made full payment to Raghukul Holidays three months ago. Chavare said when he contacted Amit Kulkarni, the owner of Raghukul Holidays, the latter allegedly express his inability to arrange this amount in a short period of time.
Chavare added, “It clearly indicated that we had to return without completing pilgrimage.” He said to avoid this, the tourists decided to arrange Rs 40 lakh.
When contacted, Amit Kulkarni told Sakal Times, “We are arranging the money. The tourists are safe and they will complete the travel.” When questioned over the default in the payment, Kulkarni refused to comment.
Narrating the chain of events as to how things started getting resolved only after Chavare contacted Suresh Prabhu requesting him to look into the matter, he said things started moving only when Prabhu’s office contacted the Indian embassy in Kathmandu. Officials there then requested the travel company in Nepal to allow the tourists to complete their pilgrimage.
Chavare said the tourist company, which earlier insisted on the payment of Rs 54 lakh, finally agreed to allow them to complete their remaining travel.