Continuing the legacy of ‘unequal’ allotment of funds to the Dogra land, Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor reportedly announced Rs 2.94 crore relief package for people employed in the tourism industry in the Union Territory, with Jammu’s share only Rs 1.68 lakh against Kashmir’s share 2,92,54,000.
Jammu and Kashmir Finance department approved the release of nearly Rs three Crore for the tourism players of Jammu and Kashmir.
“The funds to the tune of Rs 2,94,22,000 (Rupees two crore ninety four lakh and twenty two thousand only) will be disbursed among 14,711 tourism players including Shikarawalas, Ponywalas, Tourist Guides, Dandiwalas/Sledgewalas/ Palkiwalas,” reads the order, adding that the Finance department after getting approval from the Lieutenant Governor, J&K, funds out of “J&K Relief Fund” has been approved for the disbursement for the survey taken by the Tourism Department Kashmir and Tourism Department Jammu.
Under the package, in Kashmir division Director Tourism, would distribute Rs 2,92,54,000 with 4444 shikara walas getting Rs 88,88,000, 1370 tourist guides would receive Rs 27,40,000, 6663 ponywalas Rs 1,33,26,000 and and 2150 Dandiwalas/Sledgewalas/Palkiwalas Rs 43,00,000. As many as 14,627 people will benefit from the relief amount in the valley.
Similarly, Director Tourism Jammu has been approved to distribute Rs 1,68, 000 in which 13 tourist guides will receive Rs 26,000 and 71 Ponywalas to receive Rs 1,42,000. Around 84 people would benefit from the package in Jammu. A total of 14,711 people will benefit from the package. The money will be paid for two months.
Many tourism players in Kashmir valley have welcomed the government’s package for the daily wagers associated with the tourism sector.
Former President Kashmir’s Chamber of Commerce and Industries (KCCI) Sheikh Ashiq said that the package would suffice some needs of people who earn on a daily basis from the tourism sector.
“There are many people whose livelihood depends on whatever they earn in a day. So, at least for next two months they will have some money to run their daily expenses,” he told the media.
Chairman Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Alliance (JKTA) Manzoor Pakhtoon said though it is a welcome step, tour operators’ should also have been included in the package.
Talking to The Typewriter, Sachin Jamwal, associated with the tourism industry of Jammu said that this is sheer injustice with Jammu.
“At a time, when everything is on halt due to pandemic induced lockdown, the government instead of making justifiable allocation of relief package, has played with the emotions of the people in Jammu,” said Jamwal, adding that it is unfortunate that the government did not realize that Rs 1.68 lakh is not even sufficient to cater basic needs of the people associated with the sector.
Taking dig at the union government and Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) cadre in Jammu, Jamwal said that this is another gift for the people of Jammu, post abrogation of Article 370.
“At the time of abrogation of Article 370, leaders of ruling Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) told various stakeholders in Jammu, including people associated with tourism sector that the move of scrapping Article 370 will end decades long injustice with the Jammu region viz a viz allotment of funds,” he said and asserted that these leaders had also claimed that the abrogation of the special status will usher prosperity in the Dogra land, but eventually the people in Jammu are paying the price of supporting them.
He said that earlier, liquor shop owners have faced the wrath of ‘unjustified’ moves of the government, then people associated with the mining industry faced the unruly behavior of the administration, and now the tourism sector has been ‘wounded’ by the government.
When contacted Director Tourism Jammu, Naseem Javid Choudhary said that the assessment/survey for this particular relief package was done last year, during the first wave of this pandemic.
“Ponywalas, camel riders and tourist guides, who were registered with the Tourism department and were actually working on ground are covered under this relief package”, said Director adding that in Jammu not many people associated with the above stated sector are registered with the Tourism department and those who are registered will get the benefit.
However, Rajesh Chandan, Chairman Federation of Registered Travel Associations of Jammu said that first of all the procedure for registration is not so easy.
“Even the government is not serious about taking care of the Jammu tourism, as you would have witnessed that the Director Jammu is being transferred frequently, which is not the case of Kashmir directorate,” he said and added that he had intermittently spoken to successive Directors of the Jammu tourism about registration of tourist guide.
“I told the Director that I will provide them with at least 50 tourist guides, who are working in Jammu. I even assisted some tourist guides to the office of Director Tourism for registration, but the process of registration had multiple hurdles,” he said and added that at the time of registration, there should be a flexible registration process.