Harassed Tourists Forced To Spend Nights At Kullu Valley Barriers

Manali:  The state government’s recent decision to open the state’s borders, in what under normal circumstances would have been the peak tourist season, has not been a popular one, despite the stringent and difficult conditions put in place to permit entry. To restart tourism activity for a state whose economy is heavily dependent upon it, Himachal Pradesh has formulated a policy to safe guard against the Covid pandemic.

Opinion remains divided within the hill state on opening up the tourism sector, as the Covid-19 count explodes. ‘Livelihood Matters’ is a powerful catchphrase to latch on to the argument that closing down is no longer an option. The losses have far exceeded the sustenance access. However, must be duly acknowledged is that those defying their own demons of fear and anxiety to open hotels and resorts expect basic courtesy and responsibility for the guests. The trust once broken is difficult to cash in. Like the hills deserve respect, so do the dwellers — the hosts. It is incumbent on the want-to-break-free itinerants, as also the routine travelers, to make sure that their presence is not annoying. The law will take its course, but such brash behavior is helping no one, not the guests, not the hosts. The High Court has already sought replies on a petition demanding withdrawal of the July 2 notification allowing tourists.

People waiting at Bajuor checkpost in Kullu (Photo: Sanjay Dutta)

Due to the negligence of the panchayat representatives, many people are forced to spend the nights in their vehicles at the barrier itself. If a person from other state comes with corona test report and other documents including permission letter, he may not get entry from the barrier without the permission of the panchayat pardhans. The guest will not be able to enter the district unless the person concerned talks to the staff posted on the barrier. In many cases the phone numbers of the panchayat pardhans are being found out of reach or no response or switch off, in many cases the panchayat pardhans are not receiving the phone calls. In such a situation, people coming from outside are finding it difficult even if they have all the documents.

These types of complaints have been coming for the last several days and people had to face problems. Last evening, hotelier Aseem Singhal arrived at Bajaura in kullu from Delhi. Aseem Singhal said that he had the Covid test report, permission letter, and all other documents. He was stopped by the police persons in Bajaura simply because he could not get the Panchayat pardhan to talk to the police and other staff posted on the barrier in kullu area. Although he called Pardhan several times but Pardhan did not pickup the phone call. Aseem told that because of this he had to spend the night in his car on the barrier and adding to the misery there was no public toilet and drinking water facility on the barrier.

He added four other vehicles were also stopped there and they too got stuck till morning due to not being able to talk to Pradhan. Aseem told that he called a friend in Manali and requested him to go to Pradhan’s house in the morning and then got the staff stationed at the barrier talk to Pradhan on the phone and then only he was allowed to go. People are facing these kinds of difficulties every day.

“It is a rule that unless someone talks to the head of the panchayat or other panchayat representative, otherwise they cannot send anyone to the concerned area. Therefore, people coming from other provinces should keep with them the numbers of all the representatives of the respective panchayat. They can enter the district only first informing panchayat representative” revealed Priyank Gupta, DSP Headquarter, Kullu.

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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.

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1 Comment

  1. says: Manjunatha Pattaabhi Shastry

    Which part of the country does Panchayath act with responsibility?. India is 65/percent Rural, and none of the activities here are registered,legal. Tourism is run by local land lords.they neither pay any taxes,nor have any sense of responsibility. Infact many land lords who drive BMW/Audi are BPL card holders. Maximum amount of govt aid goes to rural belt,they enjoy free rice,free house,free electricity,and indulge in illegal activity. This is a big joke of Panchayath Raj of India. Stop free bees,and sieze the tourist homes and home stays.

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