Covid-hit Tourism

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WITH second Covid-19 wave wreaking havoc across the country, the tourism in Kashmir is one of the sectors that has been hit the hardest. Already reeling from over two years of constant disruption, the resurgence of the pandemic has made the prospect of  revival of the sector even more bleak.

One of the factors that led to surge in Covid-19 cases in the Valley is the tourism itself. In the absence of the permission for international travel, a large number of domestic tourists came to Kashmir. In the process the administration also overlooked the Standard Operating Procedures in case of incoming holiday makers which, in part, led to the second wave spreading through the Valley. And this, in turn, has killed one more season of tourism.

This has prompted the administration to announce a Rs 3 crore relief package for people employed in the industry. According to the package, Rs 2,000 financial assistance will be provided to  registered ‘shikara’ owners,  tourist guides, ponywalas and  others, including those who rent palanquins for yatris. The money will be paid for the next two months to tide over the peak of the ongoing wave.

But as is apparent this money is peanuts and will hardly compensate for the massive loss due to loss of tourists. And that too during the  spring and the most probably during the upcoming summer season. Given its ferocity, the second wave is likely to last until early autumn. And until then the Covid-19 related restrictions would not only have impacted the tourism but also crushed the other businesses, leaving once again thousands of people unemployed.

This is why the government needs to think for the longer and prepare in advance for the coming three months. One question to ask would be if continuing the lockdown would be in the interest of the already battered economy. And whether denying people a chance to earn livelihood wouldn’t be a cure worse than the disease? There is a large section of people living at the bottom of pyramid who have largely been jobless over the last two years. Their savings have already been depleted. For example, the transporters: the drivers and conductors have now very little to survive on. This includes also the people associated with tourism.

So, while the government plans ahead, it has to take this reality on board. If the lockdown can’t be done without, the administration has to come up with a reasonable economic package that at least takes a modest care of the people rendered without livelihood as a result.

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