Days after the Jammu drone attack, a sudden government order has left professional photojournalists in lurch in Srinagar.
JUST before a new proclamation prohibited drones in Srinagar, aerial snapper Shabir Bhat was set to shoot a pre-wedding ceremony of a New Delhi-based couple in the enchanting ruins of Pari Mahal.
The order issued by Srinagar District Commissioner not only cost him his project, but his drone worth two lakh rupees too.
“It’s like robbing someone of his livelihood,” Shabir, unable to make sense of the magistrate order, says.
“Why should Kashmiris always bear the brunt of these so-called security-driven decisions? Instead of going for some defense rethink, they choose to render us commoners jobless. This is atrocious!”
Notably, a week after the Jammu drone attack, DC Srinagar Aijaz Asad in an order on July 4 banned drones and other unmanned aerial vehicles in the City. He also directed the drone owners to deposit their aerial machines in local police stations.
The administration cautioned that any violation of the guidelines will attract punitive action, and directed police to implement the restrictions in letter and spirit.
But as the order has evoked anguish and hit the livelihood of dozens of young photographers using drones for weddings, special engagements and travel photography, DC Asad didn’t respond to the repeated media queries from Kashmir Observer.
The magistrate order, however, has exempted government departments from using drones for mapping, surveys and surveillance in agricultural, environmental conservation and disaster mitigation sectors.
The use of drones picked up in Kashmir after many youth armed with degrees started investing in these aerial machines for professional reasons.
“I used to earn a good amount of money and was happy with my job, but suddenly I’ve been asked to hand over the equipment. What should I do now,” Shabir continues.
He says he has no choice but to sell his drone in New Delhi “even if fetches a small amount”.
Like Shabir, Imad-ur-Rehman, a well-known vlogger and video creator from Srinagar, sees the order as “strange”.
“How can administration ask us to hand over the equipment worth lakhs to them?” Imad, 32, wonders. “It should’ve notified some areas as no-fly zones, like we’ve in different countries. Not allowing us to use drones will hit our business.”
Even in the western countries, he says, the government has facilitated and made special laws for the drone users. “I want the Srinagar administration to follow those laws, so that our bread and butter would be spared.”
As the “first person” to do vlogging by using drones, Imad had earlier registered his aerial machine and the necessary details to a local police station.
“I’m into film-making and I can’t do it without using drones,” he says. “If they want to take our drones now, they should give us compensation. We’ve got the drones legally and the government should do a verification program and allow the professionals to operate. The drones have a unique identification number, so if my drone is misused, it can be tracked within no time.”
In the last few years, drone cameras have taken wedding photography to new heights in Kashmir. The social media is flooded with the surreal cinematic aerial shots of the valley involving more and more youth in this creative venture.
“The drone has now become the essential part of the Kashmiri weddings,” says Maqsood Bhat, a wedding filmmaker. “But whenever we go for drone shooting, we take the permission from tourism department. Even our clients get permission from the police if the area is restricted. We were doing it very professionally and with a sense of responsibility. But this order has left us in lurch.”
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