The Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha has announced a relief package of Rs 3 crore under which direct financial aid will be provided to individuals associated with the tourism industry that has taken a severe hit due to the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic.
“In this package, Rs 2,000 financial assistance will be provided to 4,444 registered ‘shikara’ owners, 1,370 tourist guides, 6,663 ponywalas and 2,150 others, including those who rent palanquins for yatris. The money will be paid for two months. The relief will be transferred to only those who are registered with the tourism department,” an official of tourism department said.
While those in the tourism industry have welcomed the financial support, most feel the amount given could have been higher and that the support package should have also been extended to travel agents, owners of Kashmir’s famed houseboats, hotels and transport operators.
Bashir Ahmad, a shikara owner at the Dal Lake, said, “It is a good thing that the government is thinking of such a package, but we feel the amount should have been more given how things are on the ground.”
Dr. Umar Nazir Tibet Baqal, a member of the TAAK Travel agents’ association of Kashmir commented that the package should at least extend amnesty for power and water bills for the tourism infrastructure.
The tourism sector in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir has been in a dire state for the majority of the last two years. With the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019 followed by the coronavirus lockdown, the tourism industry has taken a severe hit. The union territory had witnessed some pick up in tourism over the winter months this year, however, the recent outbreak of the second wave of the pandemic has put tourism at a standstill once again.
Jammu and Kashmir recorded over 3,300 new Covid-19 cases in the span of 24 hours. After the latest spike in cases, the tally in the region has crossed 2,70,500 on Sunday. The total death toll has increased to 3,563 after the union territory reported 51 fatalities caused by Covid-19. On the positive side, 2,19,620 patients in Jammu and Kashmir have either been discharged or cured from the virus.