Srinagar: Valley-based travel operators are alarmed at the circular issued by the Gujarat Commissioner of Transport on Wednesday which lays down strict conditions for Road Transport Offices (RTOs) in Gujarat for issuing any vehicle permit for the Amarnath Yatra.
“The circular that comes ahead of the Amarnath Yatra this year has made it mandatory for RTOs to issue permits only when tour operators submit registration forms from the Amarnath Board in advance, including details of the bus, permit number, names of passengers and their addresses along with cellphone numbers of their relatives”, The Indian Express reported.
“The circular has also directed the tour operators and the drivers to stick to their routes. The operators must submit a route plan of the tour for the purpose of seeking permit. No night halts are allowed on the route, except in areas pre-decided by the government of J&K. No bus can run after sunset,” the report added.
Rouf Tramboo, President of the Adventure Tour Operator Association of Kashmir, said that by issuing such a circular, the Gujarat government is simply barring their people from coming to Kashmir.
“They want to scare away those intending to visit Kashmir for the pilgrimage. The circular makes it seem that they are going into a war zone,” Rouf said. “We haven’t seen or heard such type of advisory before, even when militancy was at its peak in Kashmir.”
Rouf also said that tour operators in Gujarat, too, are worried about this circular. “I had contacted my counterpart in Gujarat and he told me that he had never before heard of such type of conditions. He said the Gujarat tour operators will oppose this and raise the issue before the authorities.”
President of the Travel Agents Society of Kashmir (TASK), Mir Anwar, said that there was already an internal advisory issued last year by the Gujarat government against travelling to Kashmir. “This internal advisory was straightforwardly telling people not to travel to Kashmir. The J&K government should do something to safeguard the interest of tourism industry in Kashmir,” Anwar said.
“We will take up this (new) issue before the Director Tourism,” he added.
Former president of TASK, Mohammad Ibrahim Shah, said that the Gujarat government had taken a “wrong step” and it will be a big setback to the whole yatra. “We are trying to make tourism better here but this advisory will simply ruin our efforts,” Shah said. “This advisory will not be confined to Gujarat but will affect the overall tourism in Kashmir.”
General Secretary of the Travel Agents Association of Kashmir (TAAK), Farooq Ahmad Kuthu, told Kashmir Reader that “this advisory is going to have a serious impact not only on Amarnath pilgrims but also on people intending to travel for pleasure”.
“When people go through the advisory, it would create a fear in their minds that something wrong is going on in Kashmir,” he said, adding that the Gujarat government should revoke the order immediately.