Manali: The administration’s decision to issue permits to residents of Lahaul-Spiti and those tourists who are either interested in visiting Lahaul-Spiti or Ladakh, only on condition that they would not be allowed to return the same day, has drawn a lot of tourist for obtaining a pass to visit Rohtang Pass.
As it is, access to Rohtang Pass, which needs to be crossed to get to Lahaul valley or travelling onwards to Ladakh, has been restricted by the National Green Tribunal and only a limited number of diesel and petrol driven tourist vehicles are allowed to enter the pass area.
Finding a loophole in the administration’s new decision, many tourist have started misusing the permit system and as a result it is proving to be a game of hide and seek between tourists and the police.
If sources in the know of things are to be believed more than 500 permits are issued every day on the pretext that they are for tourists and residents intending to visit Lahaul-Spiti or Ladakh from Manali.
But many of these tourists are not reaching Lahaul-Spitti or Ladakh but simply returning after spending the day at Rohtang pass.
Instead of being penalized for violating the Kullu administration’s strict order, many of the vehicles return back to Manali on the same day by secretly by breaching the rules.
Earlier, the Kullu administration’s new rules of issuing permits had come as good news for the small hotel industry of Lahaul-Spiti.
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has imposed a daily limit of 1,200 vehicles going to Rohtang pass for tourism purpose.
Kullu administration’s decision to issue a permit to people visiting Lahaul-Spiti valley and Ladakh was only to facilitate tourists in accordance with NGT orders.
Nearly 2500 tourists are leaving on pretext of visiting Lahaul-Spiti and Ladakh from Manali every day on the basis of the permit issued but most of them are simply not getting there and are coming back the same day by spending the day at Rohtang Pass itself.
With more tourists learning about the loophole in the administration lax rule implementation, more and more of them are making a beeline to obtain a permit for Lahaul-Spiti or Ladakh, just to to go and visit Rohtang and return back.
“We don’t know how many permits are being issued permits from Manali, but only a few tourists are coming to stay in our hotels,” Veer Singh, president Lahaul Hoteliers Association said. He added that the NGT’s ban on the number of vehicles visiting Rohtang Pass had already affected the business of hotel owners of Lahaul valley.
Tashi Karpa, a former president of the association said that obtaining a tourist permit for visiting Lahaul has become as difficult, if not more for obtaining a visa for USA or another developed country.
The decision to have permits for Lahaul and Ladakh has not helped either. “We don’t know how many permits are being issued from Manali, but only a few tourists are coming to stay in our hotels”, says Karpa.
Sanjay Dutta, an engineer by qualification but is a journalist by choice.
He has worked for the premier new agency Press Trust of India and leading English daily Indian Express.
With more than a decade of experience, he has been highlighting issues related to environment, tourism and other aspects affecting mountain ecology.
Sanjay Dutta lives in a village close to Manali in Kullu valley of Himachal.