SRINAGAR: At times when the tourism department boasts about promoting adventure sports to attract tourists and adventure lovers from all over the world, people who spent years to make that possible on ground have been left disheartened due to official apathy.
Taseen Ahamd Wani, 45, from Natipora area of Srinagar, who has spent prime of his youth in learning the skills of this trade from different adventure training institutes and then implementing them in the valley with a huge investment, is now uncertain about his future.
An avid adventure lover, Taseens’ tryst with the formal training in adventure sports started in the year 1997 in Nepal, a hub of adventure tourism, to do a course in River Guide Training at Hotel Management and Tourism Training Centre, Kathmandu, Nepal.
He went on to do Kayaking training from PaddleNepal- Himalayan white water pursuits, White Water Rescue Technician from Rescue international, a French company, Basic First Aid Training Course by Nepal Red cross Society. He further went on to do a paragliding course from, Himalayan Para Adventure in Himachal Pradesh.
Like lakhs of unemployed youth from the valley Taseen was expecting a government job in the tourism department as a river guide or instructor but the post has not been created in the department.
“Many locals here are doing these activities without any formal training thus putting lives at risk. Government could have used our skills in imparting training to the local youth. They are importing guides from Nepal and not flourishing the local talent,” Taseen said.
Taseen then registered his adventure sports firm ‘Holiday Adventure’ in 2008 and started doing rafting activities from Pahalgam but after the Amarnath Land row he went into loss as he had invested 15 lakhs in building the infrastructure and to buy the equipments. But he continued doing activities there despite the loss.
“After that in the year 2012 the tourism director said he was serious in starting adventure sports activities in valley and asked us to do rafting courses under ‘Hunar Say Rozgar’ scheme,” Taseen said, shuffling while shuffling his certificates.
Interestingly when Taseen went to Jawahar Institute of Mountaineering and Winter Sports, to do a rafting course along with forty more boys, he ended up being an instructor at the request of the principal of the institute due to the lack of a professional and certified trainer at the institute.
In the remarks column of Taseen’s certificate, Principal wrote “a sincere, physically fit and mentally robust instructor” and offered him to continue his services at the institute which Taseen refused due to the temporary nature of the Job.
Taseen claims to be the pioneer of the ATVs and other adventure sports activities in Kashmir by initiating new ideas in the valley and says that he brings innovative ideas which are later copied by other persons.
“I continued with my passion in adventure sports and brought four All Terrain Vehicles (ATV’s) and went to Gulmarg but the CEO Gulmarg said that I cannot operate there since I was not a local besides they had a ponnywala scheme for the locals,” he said.
Then he went to Sonmarg and worked from there and his work prompted the then Chief Executive Officer to ask Taseen to do more to promote adventure in Sonamarg. He accepted the request and bought snow mobiles for the first time in the valley.
“when I started increasing my activities and asked the tourism department for incentives for my projects they provided me incentives only on one activity while I was doing three simultaneously. My files are still pending with them,” Taseen said.
“The tourism department are also asking me to wind up my operations from one place saying that I cannot operate from two places. How could I do that when I have got the equipment? Should I keep that in home to rust,” he questioned.
Taseen says that now government has ordered that no petrol vehicle should operate at Thajwas glacier citing a court order to save the eco-sensitive zone from pollution. He has now moved to court for rehabilitation or compensation since he has been rendered jobless.
“A lot of my machinery was damaged in the 2014 floods also and bank said my machines were insured but they refused to pay me later and I had to approach consumer court. Now my house is mortgaged with the bank against the money they paid me,” he said with a heavy heart.
“I am bubbling with ideas. I want do more but there is no support from the government. Government should create jobs for people like us or frame some policy so that the likes of me should not suffer and should be able to feed our families,” Taseen said while appealing to the government.