Four days after an Indian pilgrim died of respiratory problems while on a tour of Mansarovar Lake on the Indo-China border, another Indian woman too succumbed to high-altitude illness while pursuing the same destination, reinforcing fears that one of the holiest pilgrim sites in Asia is fast turning into a death trap for unwary Indian travellers.
Meenakshi Devi Shriram Bhoyar, a 38-year-old god woman from Maharashtra, became the latest victim dying of malignant cerebral edema in a Kathmandu hospital Sunday. Bhoyar ran an ashram in Dattapur Wardha in the western Indian state and apparently had a large number of disciples.
She was part of a group of Indian pilgrims from Maharasthtra as well as Nagpur who had headed for the holy circuit of Mount Kailash on the Indo-China border, considered by Hindus to be the abode of Shiva, one of the Hindu trinity, and Mansarovar Lake, about 18 mile South-East of the peak.
Apparently, there were no doctors specialising in high-altitude medicine with the group.
Bhoyar was brought to Kathmandu with breathing trouble and admitted to the capital's BNB Hospital Saturday. She died early Sunday morning due to swelling in the brain caused by oxygen deficiency, a frequent hazard in high altitudes.
Samir Shende, a member of the group, informed the Nepal police and Indian embassy in Kathmandu of Bhoyar's death and the body was flown to Nagpur via Delhi for cremation.
Bhoyar's death comes just four days after the Indian media reported the death of a pilgrim from Howrah, Kolkata.
Manju Agarwal died of respiratory problems while visiting Mansarovar Lake with her husband, Suresh Agarwal, a businessman who had paid their tour operator over Rs 200,000 for the trip.
The Kolkata couple was part of a large group of pilgrims taken by a Kolkata-based travel agency that subsequently came under criticism for not taking medical precautions and including doctors.
While the trips to Mount Kailash and Mansarovar Lake organised by the government of India have a fitness requirement, unscrupulous tour operators, out to make a fast buck, tend to ignore medical precautions and cram in as many people as possible.
According to estimates made by the Indian embassy here, about six to seven deaths are reported from the Mansarovar route every year. This year, there are rumours of another Indian pilgrim having died on the same route but they could not be officially confirmed immediately.