NC Leader Says New Delhi ‘disrupting’ Kashmir Tourism

NC Leader Says New Delhi ‘disrupting’ Kashmir Tourism

9 June 2013
Greater Kashmir
Abid Bashir

Srinagar: A senior leader from ruling National Conference Sunday accused New Delhi of disrupting the ongoing tourism season in Kashmir and damaging the Centre-State relations by “giving a free hand” to various airlines who have gone for an “unbridled air fare hike for Delhi-Srinagar journey.” Dr Mehboob Beg, who is also a Member Parliament, has written a letter to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s seeking his intervention into the issue while the Valley-based tour operators have blamed Government of India for “cutting the throat of Kashmir tourism at a time of huge tourist influx.” Talking to Greater Kashmir, Mehboob Beg said on the one hand New Delhi talks about ensuring peace in Kashmir but on the other it “adopts ways and means to scuttle the development of the place that is already alienated.” “I was shocked to see the air fare from Delhi-Srinagar. It is Rs 27000 (one-way only) which is not-affordable for even an MP, let alone a tourist,” he said. “This rate is not applicable for other places like Delhi-Manali or even Delhi-Malaysia. Then why Kashmir only?” Dr Beg has urged the PM to summon heads of all airlines and seek an explanation from them over the issue. “I have stated in my letter that the huge hike in airfare on Delhi-Srinagar travel is discrimination with the already alienated part of the country. The move can further deteriorate Centre-State relations. If airfare rate for Delhi-Malaysia is not beyond Rs 22000, why this bias with Kashmir?” Beg said. “I have urged the Prime Minister to sort out the issue so that Kashmir tourism is saved from receiving a jolt.” Dr Beg said, “It is also shocking to know that Bollywood directors are shooting in Kashmir and then projecting the place as Shimla and Himachal Pradesh,” he said. Mushtaq Ahmed, Manager Travel Master, a leading travel agency, said there has been at least 300 per cent hike in air fares over the past three months on travel from Delhi to Srinagar. “With this, Kashmir has become an unaffordable journey for both domestic and foreign tourists. Air-fares of many other foreign destinations are much cheaper. So tourists prefer other destinations,” he said. Tour-operators here have expressed their deep shock over the unprecedented hike and have blamed New Delhi of playing with the tourism in Kashmir. “If a family comprising just four persons wants to visit Kashmir, it would cost them more than Rs one lakh which is unaffordable. The move amounts to cutting the throat of tourism of a place where economy continues to be in a bad shape over the past 22 years,” said Chairman Houseboat Owners Association, Muhamamd Azim Tuman. Joining the chorus, Kashmir Economic Alliance, an amalgam of hoteliers, transporters and tour-operators, has accused New Delhi of “unjustified aggression” towards Kashmir by giving a “free license to airlines to go for hike of their choice.” “We haven’t seen such a hike so far. The move would put a halt on tourist arrival in Kashmir. We also fear that the hike may force tourists to visit other places,” said KEA Chief Spokesman, Siraj Ahmed. “It is obvious when tickets would be costlier, fewer tourists would arrive. I urge Chief Minister Omar Abdullah to intervene into the issue.” He said tourism at this juncture is picking up after a lull of 45 days following the secret execution of Muhammad Afzal Guru in New Delhi’s Tihar Jail on February 9. “At present we are witnessing 60 per cent tourist arrival,” said Siraj.