The snow and the chains

They need to streamline the system to attract more and more people



Jammu and Kashmir in general and the valley of Kashmir in particular are natural marvels.  Every season brings to fore new destinations replacing the old ones. Apart from the woes it carries along, winter has a charm - the charm of the snow. The valley of Kashmir when clad with snow across its length and breadth  exhibits its beauty to the fullest. The meadows of Pahalgam and the slopes of Gulmarg narrate the story of winter tourism in Kashmir. We feel that winter tourism in Kashmir is a reality now. Huge investments have been made to attract tourists from the world over.
Gulmarg no doubt is the central attraction for every class of tourists. Even the CM has often been seen skiing. People from all walks of life want to make it to Gulmarg in the winter, at least once. I am no exception. But every time one reaches the gateway to Gulmarg  called Tangmarg one feels disappoined. People in the Khaki make sure that no private vehicle (except the special ones) pass the contingent. A congested place is shown wherein the cars are to be parked.
On 27th of January 2013, I started for Gulmarg from Srinagar. It was a chilly but clear morning. I thought of visiting the slopes with some level of convenience, since live snowing would have made things prettier and enjoyable but it was tougher to reach the destination. The drive was smooth, until Tangmarg. Police did not allow private vehicles, beyond and rightly so, because of the slippery road condition. We were asked to chain the tyres. (Chained population to chain the tyres)!!!! Searching for the chains in the main market of Tangmarg was ordeal in itself. `Pay Rs 800 as rent for one chain' said some fellow on the roadside. On being reminded that I needed two, it was better to think for a moment. Once the thought was complete, there was no chain to be had. A more enthusiastic tourist paid the amount and won the bid for the chain. I started exploring the next option. Someone told me to board a Tata Sumo. Searching again!!!! This time for a sumo. Rs 1200 and full booking only, said the driver. I understood him well. He wanted me to pay Rs 1200 for a distance of 12 kms. Is not there any proper transport system in place that can ferry passengers in  a normal way as happens in other parts of the state , and country  and the world at large?. I was not alone in moving from pillar to post, searching for some vehicle that could carry me along on terms and conditions that were genuine. I then started experimenting with the happenings. Hundreds of tourists were finding it hard to move ahead although they had their vehicles along. They could not find the chains, and were stranded. Finally a Matadoor came to our rescue. I joined a group of 20 tourists. We motivated a local matador driver against a payment of Rs 1500 to drop us at Gulmarg. This visit to Gulmarg and the way it unfolded threw some questions, which I could not answer by my own. I started contemplating about certain issues.
If Patnitop can be made motorable, amidst very heavy and uninterrupted snowfall, why cannot be the all important 13km stretch from Tangmarg to Gulmarg cleared off the snow?
That is a matter of concern for those who really want to attract more people to the place famous for its beauty.

(Javaid Iqbal Khan is Assistant Professor at Department of Economics, University of Kashmir)

Lastupdate on : Mon, 4 Feb 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Mon, 4 Feb 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Tue, 5 Feb 2013 00:00:00 IST

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