SRINAGAR: The Shri Amarnarthji Shrine Board, which manages the annual Amarnath yatra, was on Thursday accused of acting like ‘a state within a state’ by the largest private forum of tourism operators and agents of the valley.
Kashmir Travel Trade Bodies United Forum, an amalgam of 18 such organisations, accused the board of using its power to create “unwanted hurdles” for the tour operators of the Valley.
“Last year we were asked to produce the documents which we had already submitted in the tourism department. This year the same was repeated by the board. We were asked to produce legality of our associations, police verification and income tax records. Why should we repeat when we have submitted same with our tourism department?” Rouf Tramboo, chairman of the Forum told reporters.
The board gives clearance to the tour operators and associations which can sell helicopter tickets to yatra pilgrims.
Last year and a year before, a registration certificate and a letter of an association were sought but this year, apart from the two certificates, the board has asked for three more.
There are three operators providing helicopter services, Pawan Hans, Global Victra and Himalayan Heli for the yatris.
The majority share of the tickets is retained by the operations and a portion is shared by tour agents in Kashmir and Jammu regions.
The process for booking starts in April but tour agents are allotted their share only 15 days ahead of the yatra.
“On a sunny day the board sells 800 helicopter tickets out of which 135 are given to Kashmir based operators. These 135 are to be distributed among hundreds of operators. The problem is that we get less share, we don’t get time to package these tickets in our tour plans and we get tickets for afternoon slots only,” Nazir Ahmad, another member of the Forum said
“The issue with the afternoon slots is that yatris prefer morning slots because they get more time to spend at the shrine. We never understand the board’s philosophy,” he added.
He said when tourism development corporation operated helicopter services, tour operators never faced such problems.
“The board is acting like state with a state,” Nazir said adding that the Forum would not submit any other document even at the cost of giving up the ticket quota.