It is almost impossible to think of any aspect of human life that has remained unaffected due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Shall we talk about the impact on mental health or shall we assess the impact on the economy? Shall I refer to the abandoned markets or shall I talk of the deserted playgrounds? Shall I narrate the silence I witness everywhere or shall I talk about the hue and cry in hospitals? In short, the devastation and suffering caused by the pandemic is widespread and almost nothing and no one has been spared.
Here I shall talk about the impact of Covid on tourism and the subsequent miseries of those who were entirely dependent on it for their livelihood. I shall be specific to Kashmir and try to paint the sufferings of people who relied on tourism for their bread and butter. I recently visited Pahalgam with my friends. When we were about to reach Aro (aadav) which is adjacent to Pahalgam, a group of seven to eight persons chased our car as fast as they could. At that time I did not know the reason why. It was only after we stopped that I came to know that they had exhausted themselves in a bid to convince us for a horse ride.
The way they tired themselves reflected the intense strain on their livelihood. At that point of time I was confused whether to gaze at the lofty mountains and the fast-flowing water or to look at the immense human suffering that was going side by side with it. It is impossible for us to feel the pain and suffering such people are going through in their tough struggle for survival. People take risks when means of livelihood are constrained and chasing a car at a high speed provides an ample manifestation of it. They remain almost entirely dependent on tourism for their livelihood. Their life even in normal conditions is not easy but the lockdown and restrictions placed on visiting tourist destinations have further increased their suffering and made the question of survival harder for them. The way they suffer and struggle for their livelihood has become so normal in these places that many take it for granted and as a result their miseries remain largely unnoticed.
Everyone who depends on tourism has been drastically impacted by the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown measures. It would be highly misleading and inappropriate if the suffering and struggle in these tourist destinations is confined to a particular section. The deserted tourist places have shaken the livelihood of everyone who relies on tourism. Be it an owner of a bus or an owner of a horse, be it a shopkeeper or anybody else, everyone is devastated.
And I must add that these people have not suffered only in 2020 but due to the disruptions in the valley they have suffered from time to time. In recent years their condition has further deteriorated. Since tourism is the main source of livelihood for them and no alternatives are available, shattered tourism shatters their livelihood. It is becoming harder and harder for them even to meet their basic necessities of life.
Because their livelihood has been shaken, they are in utmost distress. I feel no hesitation to say that the state has a duty to mitigate the sufferings of such people. These folks ruined by lockdown are in desperate need for the state’s help. The state must find ways of appropriate help and assistance for them. It is the constitutional obligation of the state to care for the people. Where they will go if the state fails to come to their rescue? It is highly immoral to let people suffer. As soon as possible, the state must provide immediate relief in the form of financial assistance. It is true that the losses cannot be completely compensated but any assistance will ease them of the strain the lockdown has put on them. Ensuring that people have adequate means of livelihood and empowering them to meet their basic needs is among the foremost obligations of the state.
—The writer is a student at GDC Bijbehara