Anantnag: The tourism-dependent businesses along the Apple Valley here in Anantnag district are bearing the brunt of a diktat by the authorities not to allow any tourist vehicles to ply through this famed route towards Pahalgam.
Apple Valley is the road stretch from Bijbehara town of Anantnag district, passing through dozens of apple orchards, as it reaches the picturesque tourist destination of Pahalgam.
The business owners, who have spent crores establishing restaurants, dry-fruit shops, handicrafts showrooms, and the small-time tea and juice vendors have all been left high and dry even as almost the entire Kashmir valley is enjoying a terrific tourist season, after more than three years.
As per the official records, more than 6,00,000 tourists have already visited Kashmir in the first four months, more than what the footfall had been the entire previous year.
For the first three or so months, the business owners along apple valley were making merry too, but a month back the authorities decided to not allow any further tourist movement through the route.
“We had been heavily banking on this year’s tourist season after little or no business activity for the past more than three years now,” a vegetarian restaurant owner told Kashmir Reader. “Our business runs entirely on tourist footfall. Who in Kashmir goes out to eat vegetarian food?”
The business owner said that he might have to wind up his restaurant if the ban on tourist movement through the apple valley is not revoked soon. “And not only me, but many here will also have no other option than to wind up,” he said.
Kashmir Reader talked to a number of new and old business owners along the route and everyone resonated with the sentiment. “I took a loan from a relative, earlier this year, and with the hope of a revival of tourism, I set up a fruit-jam manufacturing unit, and banked heavily on selling it to the tourists. I have witnessed almost no business, and I am in debt,” the “entrepreneur” told Kashmir Reader.
Not only these business owners but the transporters as well are saddled with some losses. The drivers have been, over the years, charging some extra money from the tourists to drive through the apple valley given the route is scenic and it is a little longer than the usual route through Anantnag town.
“Besides, we used to earn some quick bucks in commission from the business owners there. All that is gone as no one is allowed to ply through the Apple Valley with tourists on board,” a driver told Kashmir Reader.
Kashmir Reader talked to a senior police official from the Anantnag district who said that he had joined the area recently and the ban was in place when he got there. “But I know that the decision has been taken keeping in view the threat of an attack on tourists,” the official said.
Some business owners alleged that the influential businessmen, located along the K P Road in Anantnag, used their clout to get this ban imposed. “All the tourists preferred to drive through Apple Valley and it was hurting their business. They have used their clout to get all the traffic diverted to their advantage,” a tea-stall owner told Kashmir Reader.
The police officer refused to comment on the allegations and said that the decision had been taken by the higher-ups, and they must have had some input that led to this ban.