THIS winter after a long time, Kashmir has experienced a heavy snowfall which has thrown life out of gear: electricity has been erratic, traffic movement has been affected, more so along Jammu-Srinagar highway and the flights have recurrently been grounded. This drastic change in weather followed an extended dry spell through November and December which had made people rule out snow this year – at least in the plains.
But the high altitude areas and the famous tourist resorts have been receiving snow since December. And this has helped bring the tourists back. At 8,960 feet, Gulmarg, Kashmir’s wonderland of snow, has received a good number of tourists. According to the tourism department, the occupancy of the hotels in the famous hill resort has risen. The hoteliers are upbeat, so is the tourism department. Snowfall is a boon for the tourism. They hope to receive more tourists as the news of the snowfall goes out. Snow is important for its novelty for the ninety-nine percent of more than a billion Indians, so they look forward to visit Kashmir in winter. The tourism department is also organizing national winter games at Gulmarg in February 2021 under the ''Khelo India'' initiative.
The tourism this winter is reviving following two last winters when fewer tourists turned up because of the troubled situation. Right from February 2019 when Pulwama bombing that killed 40 CRPF security personnel triggered Indo-Pak skirmishes, tourism in the Valley has been in a freefall. The revocation of Article 370 in August last year did further damage. It evacuated Kashmir of all tourists. The situation is now turning favourable for tourism. And here's hoping that it lasts and the people associated with the trade make up for the lost time.
Similarly, for the local people while the snowfall brings with it many hardships, it is also a time for celebration. The heavy snow this winter has brought back the memory of the forgotten old winters, when raconteurs would narrate the fairy tales during the night. So like our distinct culture, the harsh snow-bound winter with all its hardships and joys is a part of our identity. While people take the season’s difficulties in their stride, it is the successive state governments which have yet to adapt to its challenges and ensure that the basic services like power are restored at the earliest whenever heavy snowfall plunges Valley into a blackout. We hope this winter is the last when people have to put up indefinitely with the suspended public services whenever snowfall takes place
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