Mustang transport operators harass foreign tourists
POKHARA, March 30: In addition to barring vehicles carrying Indian tourists from entering the Beni-Jomsom road, the notorious transport syndicate operators in Mustang have started checking the Machine Readable Passports (MRPs) of foreign tourists heading to the famous Hindu shrine of Muktinath.
Transport entrepreneurs of Mustang have been checking the MRPs of even the tourists from the other countries , including those who were found traveling in tourist vehicles with green plate number along the Beni-Jomsom road.
Some days back, 40 tourists from Malaysia, heading to heading to the famous Hindu shrine of Muktinath, were allowed to enter the Beni-Jomsom road only after they produced their passports before the transport syndicate operators.
They said that they were compelled to produce the MRPs and other travel documents just to prove them that they were not Indian nationals after their vehicles were obstructed at Beni, Ghasa and Jomsom along the road section before they reached Muktinath.
“First we were stopped at Beni. Even after we told them that we are not from India though our faces resemble that of the Indians, they didn´t believe us and asked us to produce travel documents. Then we produced our passport, Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP) entry permit and Trekkers´ Information Management System (TIMS) cards,” said John Mugunthan, who led a team of Malaysian visitors traveling in the tourist vehicle.
“However, claiming that our travel documents were fake, we were not allowed to travel ahead. But, only after a person, who returned to Nepal after a long stay in Malaysia, spoke to us in Malaysian language, they were convinced that we were not Indians,” Mugunthan told Republica.
He further said, “Again we were stopped at Ghasa. We were permitted to move ahead after they confirmed with the local syndicate operators, who had already encountered us at Beni.”
Famous religious shrine of Muktinath in Mustang.
The Malaysian visitors faced the third round of obstruction at Jomsom. After a long debate, they could travel for the destination.
“This is the first time we have ever faced such a problem anywhere in the world. We wish no one has to face a similar problem. It´s no crime to visit a religious place. We urge Nepal government to solve this problem immediately,” Mugunthan added.
Stating that the syndicate is plaguing the tourism sector, Pom Narayan Shrestha, president of Nepal Association of Tour and Travel Agents (NATTA) Pokhara Chapter, said, such an action that cause inconvenience to them should be stopped immediately.”
However, Jayandra Thakali of Mustang Bus and Jeep Entrepreneur Committee said that they checked the passports just to ascertain if they are Malaysians as their faces resembled that of the Indians.
He was quick to add, checking passports is not a crime.
“Only the district administration, police, Immigration, and foreign affairs staff are authorized to check the passport of a visitor. The passport is a personal document and not everyone is authorized to check them. If they are found taking the law into their hands, we will punished them,” said Janak Raj Regmi, the Chief District Officer of Mustang.