Every year, thousands of people carry out the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, a revered pilgrimage, which also happens to be physically arduous. Well, the IAF has decided to make things easier for pilgrims by creating an airbridge, which will be used to lift nearly 1,080 passengers from Pithoragarh to Gunji, a report in The Times of India said.
Work on this airbridge started on June 18th, and the first batches of Kailash-Mansarovar pilgrims were airlifted early that day by IAF helicopters, from Naini Saini airstrip in Pithoragarh to Gunji base camp, to avoid weather-related issues along the treacherous route.
An official of the Pithoragarh Tourist Rest Centre of Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam told the publication that the airlift is meant to facilitate home stays for pilgrims at high altitude villages on the route, and save them from the difficult trek.
According to the Task Force Commander stationed at the location, The IAF has deployed 3 MLH class of helicopters from the Kirpan and Nubra warrior units at Pithoragarh. These choppers will carry around 60-80 passengers per day for three months, to fly around 300 hours for the entire duration of the operation.
Only the best and most experienced chopper pilots would be chosen for this task. Those have flown over mountainous terrain, and are experts at landings at high altitude. All this, because Gunji is around 3,100 metres above sea level.
Well, finally the pilgrims won’t have to undergo the 18 km steep trek in the Lakhanpur to Gunji sector of the Yatra. Hence, they won’t be at the risk of landslides at this time of the year, especially in the hazardous 670 metre stretch between Lakhanpur and Nazang.
The initiative is the result of the Ministry of External Affairs asking the Ministry of Defence to pitch in as connectivity between places is poor.
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Air Commodore Pendse of the Western Air Command, who is overlooking the operations told the publication that the IAF is always ready to take on any government task, and promises to execute it in a professional manner.
These combined efforts will make the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra less strenuous for trekkers and devotees alike.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)