POKHARA, Nov 17: Many Indian pilgrims visiting Muktinath Temple of Mustang district have long been avoiding paying fee for Trekkers’ Information Management System (TIMS) card while entering Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP) region, it has been revealed.
Every year, hundreds of Indian pilgrims visit the famous site of Hindu pilgrimage in the ACAP region in their private vehicles. There is a check-post at Tatopani, Myagdi for vehicles en route to the temple, and there is no possibility for any vehicle to avoid the post since there is only one motorable road leading to the holy site.
However, most Indian pilgrims do not make payment for TIMS card at the check-post, which is managed by TIMS, arguing that pilgrims do not require trekking permit.
Monitoring conducted by Trekkers Agencies Association of Nepal (TAAN) has revealed that many Indian vehicles avoid the check-post by crossing it at night when the post is closed.
Tourists visiting ACAP region are required to pay both ACAP’s entry fee and TIMS card fee. ACAP charges Rs 200 as entrance fee for tourists from SAARC member nations. In addition, they have to pay Rs 600 as TIMS card fee if visiting individually or Rs 300 per person if visiting in groups. This fee is much less in comparison to the Rs 2,000 anyone from non-SAARC nations needs to pay for TIMS card if visiting individually and Rs 1,000 per person if visiting in group.
“Although tourists from third nations don’t seem to have any problem in paying for the entrance and TIMS card, Indian tourists are reluctant to pay both fees although they are charged much cheaper rates,” said Surya Thapaliya, senior officer of Pokhara chapter of Nepal Tourism Board. “There is a misconception that the fees are only meant for trekkers, and not pilgrims.”
He further said that avoiding paying for TIMS card has harmed the country’s revenue collection. “Indian tourists are very skilled in evading payments. They are inflicting losses to the country’s revenue collection. Such acts must be brought into account,” he added.
According to Deepak Raj Adhikari, chairman of Western Regional chapter of TAAN, their monitoring also revealed that Indian tourists avoid paying for TIMS card by sticking into crowd while making the payment. “Once, a group of Indian tourists paid for TIMS card for 25 people. But on counting we found that they were 35. The rest of them paid only after we demanded fees for everybody,” he said.
“We are not trying to create any trouble for the visitors. Our only motive is to discourage cheating and ensure that each visitor abides by the existing rules,” he added.
Adhikari further added that there are also some entrepreneurs who take Indian tourists to Muktinath by avoiding entry fee.
“Those entrepreneurs have contacts with middlemen in Sunauli border. They avoid fee by crossing Tatopani check-post at night. But they do not pay attention to the fact that driving in difficult roads at night just to escape payment is a wrong practice since it can lead to severe accidents.”
He added that cross-check by police at night and more attention from the local authorities can drastically reduce these problems.