ANANTNAG: On the last weekend before the beginning of the holy month of Ramzan and its attendant fasting, local tourists made such a rush on Saturday and Sunday to Pahalgam that there were massive traffic jams and no hotels available, forcing many to spend Saturday night in vehicles, in mosques, and on verandah platforms.
Officials of the tourism department said that one lakh people visited the tourist destination on the weekend but local tourism operators put the number between two and three lakh.
On Saturday, thousands of people including school children were stuck in a traffic jam both on the main road and in the interior roads of Pahalgam for hours. It was not until late in the night that the litany of vehicles eased.
“We had organised a picnic for students but due to the traffic jam we could not take them to any spot except a public park where they had a lunch,” said a teacher of a private school.
Due to lack of accommodation, hundreds of people had to spend the night in vehicles while others chose masjid premises and verandahs for night stay.
“We have around 150 hotels and guest houses registered with our union but every single room in all these hotels was booked. Many people, mostly youth, after failing to find accommodation in hotels and guest houses, spent the night in vehicles or masjid premises,” Pahalgam hoteliers and guest house owners’ union president Abdul Rehman Ganai said.
Scores of people complained of overcharging by hotels and guest houses. “Taking undue advantage of the situation arising out of the huge rush, the hoteliers and guest house owners charged much higher rates for the rooms. We were three friends and had to pay two thousands rupees for a room that had no ventilation. Even the bed was almost broken,” said Imtiyaz Ahmad, a college student.
The rush of the people on Sunday was much more than on Saturday. Long traffic jams were everywhere even in the interiors of the town. The traffic jam was such that the management of the local tourist taxi stands did not allow any of the vehicles registered with their stand to ferry the tourists.
“Seeing the traffic mess outside, we shut the gate of our stand and decided not to carry tourists to any spot today,” said a driver at one of the taxi stands.
Assistant tourism director, Pahalgam, Zahida Parveen said that since it was the last weekend before the month of Ramzan, the local tourist rush was expected. She said she had not received any complaints of overcharging. “Yes, in such a huge rush, these things happen. But nobody lodged complaint with us,” Zahida said.