External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had yesterday flagged off the batch from Delhi which will reach Dharchula base camp tomorrow after starting off from Almora in the morning.

"We have made preparations to provide more facilities to the pilgrims and have deputed over 100 employees along all routes," said Dhiraj Garbiyal, MD, Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam (KMVN), the nodal agency for pilgrimage.

"Over 18 batches of more than 1,000 pilgrims are likely to undertake the annual Mansarovar Yatra this year," he said.
"ITBP, which guards the Indo-Tibet border, will take over the security of pilgrims beyond Gunji camp. Here the pilgrims will have to undergo second medical examination," a KMVN official said.

Special arrangements have been made this year to ensure comfortable pilgrimage. All camps on the route have been provided with new lodging facilities and kumaoni and tribal cuisines will be provided beginning from the first camp at Almora, officials said.

"We have installed satellite phones at Gala, Bundi, Gunji and Nabhidhank camps to allow the pilgrims talk to their families," a BSNL official said in Almora.

The second route through the Himalayan pass of Nathu La, 4,000 metres above sea level, will facilitate comfortable travel for Indian pilgrims by buses, especially for elderly Indian citizens.

Modalities for opening the second route for the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra in Tibet via Sikkim by this month were finalised on February 1 when Swaraj visited China.

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