‘Mafia’ aims to grab houseboat counter at Srinagar International Airport
Tourism players worried; Govt suspects official-tout nexus, seeks action from Union aviation ministry.
Srinagar, Mar 18: For years, Srinagar International Airport has been a key place to attract incoming tourists for houseboats. But now, this service counter is feared to be grabbed by a “mafia”, which eyes on the share of genuine business players by “cheating tourists for personal gains”.
The issue has put the houseboat owners, some 1300 in number, on tenterhooks who fear huge financial losses and a “bad name for the Kashmir tourism.”
For 30 years, the Houseboat owners have been running a counter at the airport to attract the incoming fliers towards the floating marvels –the houseboats in Dal and Nigeen lakes.
But in February 2010, the Directorate of Airport Authority of India “clandestinely floated” tenders on some internet site to lease out the counter, sources said.
The Houseboat Owners Association termed the deal “clandestine” asking the government to probe the matter.
The association in February this year threatened that the houseboat owners would take to streets should the government fail to act.
On the other hand, the Airport authorities said ‘theirs is a commercial organization, which can go for such tendering.” The officials, however, declined to comment as to why wasn’t any such tendering done in the past three decades.
Sources said the Tourism Ministry was prompt enough to look into the matter and found that three officials (names withheld) working with the Airport authorities were hand in glove with some touts and wanted to grab the counter to benefit some particular “fake business groups within and outside the state to get benefited”.
The Minister approached the Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation, Praful Patel seeking immediate halt on the processing of tenders.
“The Houseboat Owners Association of Kashmir has been having a counter at Airport in Srinagar for the past 30 years. It’s now learnt that the same has been put to tender in a clandestine manner. All this is being done by Mr *** (names withheld), his two officials *** and *** in collusion with…It is requested that the process be put on immediate hold,” the state’s Tourism Ministry wrote in the letter, a copy of which lies with Greater Kashmir.
The Ministry also sought immediate transfer of the accused officials from the Airport.
“It’s also requested that Mr ***and his two officials be immediately transferred out of Srinagar as they have been hand in glove with the notorious tout who has cheated tourists and given a bad name to the Kashmir tourism,” the letter adds.
MATTER BEING PROBED
Greater Kashmir learnt from reliable quarters that the matter was being probed by the Union Ministry.
The Minister of State for Civil Aviation has responded to the Tourism minister’s letter.
“I am having the matter looked into,” Patel has written on February 22.
Senior officials in Tourism department said even though the government received the mailer from the centre, any action in the matter was awaited.
When contacted the President of Houseboat owners association Manzoor Ahmed Wangnoo hailed the Tourism department for having picked up the issue in the “highest corridors of power.”
He, however, confirmed that the solution was awaited!
“Our only concern is that the counter shouldn’t be snatched from genuine players of the field so that neither the houseboat owners face losses nor tourism of Kashmir get a bad name at the hands of touts,” Wangnoo.
Lastupdate on : Thu, 18 Mar 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Thu, 18 Mar 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Fri, 19 Mar 2010 00:00:00 IST
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