Manali taxi operators go on strike, tourists harassed

Manali, June 19 (IANS) Most taxis went off the roads here Wednesday to protest the government’s decision not to allow chartered vehicles that are over four years old to ply to nearby tourist destination Rohtang Pass.

P.C. Thakur, president of Him-Aanchal Taxi Operators Union, which called the indefinite strike, said the government’s decision would severely hit the livelihood of taxi operators and those associated with the transport business.

Thousands of tourists who descend on this tourist resort in Himachal Pradesh, have been inconvenienced while trying to visit nearby destinations.

“The government has taken the decision to ban plying of vehicles on Manali-Rohtang Pass following the order of the Himachal Pradesh High Court. The taxi operators were issued notice in this regard Tuesday and they subsequently went on strike,” Sub-Divisional Magistrate Vinay Dhiman told IANS.

He said the high court took the decision to ban plying of old vehicles on Rohtang to protect its fragile ecology from heavy pollution of the vehicles.

At present, the eco-system of the Rohtang Pass, at an altitude of 13,050 feet, is being damaged by the increasing tourist inflow and exhaust fumes of vehicles.

The picturesque Rohtang Pass, 52 km from Manali, is a major attraction for both domestic and foreign tourists.

Officials say over 2,000 vehicles go over the pass every day during peak tourist season from June till November. A major component of the traffic is also defence vehicles, with the forces transporting supplies to strategic points through the pass during the summer break.

Thakur said most of the taxis in Manali are more than four years old. “If we are not allowed to ply vehicles, how will we survive?” he said.

Officials said tourists have been facing inconvenience as the state has already made it mandatory for people, travelling in a vehicle that does not bear a Himachal Pradesh registration number, to hire a local taxi beyond Kothi, 13 km from Manali towards Rohtang, which is still under a thick cover of snow.

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