Cafe Owners, Traders Upset With Boulevard Closure

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By Zaid Bin Shabir & Auqib Javeed

Srinagar: The mega airshow being conducted over Dal Lake by the Indian Air Force (IAF) among other objectives will also help boost tourism, an official spokesman here said on Saturday.

However, traders, restaurant owners and the transporters who ply their vehicles on the Boulevard seem to be upset with the closure of the iconic road for two days.

As part of ongoing celebration commemorating 'Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav', Air Force Station Srinagar conducted an air show at Dal Lake in Srinagar on Saturday and will continue on Sunday as well.

“Whenever the government plans to shut down Boulevard, most of the time, it’s on the weekend”, said Kamran Nisar, owner of the Winterfell Cafe at Boulevard.

Nisar said that if one looks at the amount of loss suffered by any single-unit operator due to the Boulevard closure, it’s approximately over Rs 2 lacs.

He further added, “In a month, especially in Kashmir, 25 days are those where a business operator earns for paying his necessary bills and the rest of the weekend days earn them a profit. Here, he alleges, the government turns their profit-making day into a loss.

Kamran says the ongoing Air-show may be a welcome step for tourism but barring the local population on one of the main roads of the city is unfair.

“If this Air-show was for the people of Kashmir, then why are only tourists allowed on this stretch?” Kamran asked.

Sheikh Sameer, owner of cafe Fat Panda lamented that the closure of Boulevard has become a norm for the government.

“They (government) have become so immune now, that they shut down this main road every now and then without any planning,” Sameer said.

He further added, “We are dependent on the local customers and when the Government bars any movement of the locals on this road, we suffer a loss of more than Rs 70,000 every single day and no one in the administration even bothers about it."

“No one’s stopping the government from conducting such shows but why make a business owner suffer, given the ongoing poor status of Kashmir’s economy.” Sameer said.

According to Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, Pandurang K Pole, "The main aim of the air show is to motivate the youth of the Valley to join the Indian Air Force and to promote tourism in the region.”

"The show will also develop a passion among the students to give wings to their dreams. Along with the students, 700 teachers will also be present at the venue," he said.

However, Abdur Rasheed Muqaam, a sumo driver, who ferries passengers from Dalgate to Nishat questioned the government’s idea of holding such shows at the cost of one's daily bread.

“This everyday closure of the road has become a new norm for the already suffering transport community. We save a good quantity of petrol while travelling from the Boulevard as this stretch is quite straight and without much traffic jam”, Rasheed said

He added the government’s decision to shut down this road makes them suffer as the traffic diversions forces them to travel from the Rainawari stretch where one finds nothing but long traffic snarls.”

Wahid Malik, President Kashmir Hotels and Restaurant Owners Federation (KHAROF) maintains that the issue of closing down the road during the VIP moment has been there for decades and they have apprised the authorities about the inconvenience they face due to it from time to time.

“But nobody is ready to address the issue. The government should at least keep the road open from Dalgate to Nehru Park where all houseboats and restaurants end,” he said.

He said the work of over 50 hotels and restaurants comes to halt because of the closure of Boulevard.

“The tourists as well as the locals face a lot of inconvenience” he added.

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