The Covid-19 pandemic, along with the shutdown following abrogation of Article 370 in August last year, dealt a severe blow to tourism in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. The number of tourists to Jammu and Kashmir stood at about 25.04 lakh (nearly 25 lakh domestic tourists and 5,056 foreign tourists) this year till June 2020, according to Ministry of Tourism data.
As per the provisional data shared, 1.62 crore visitors came to Jammu and Kashmir in the full year 2019. Of these, about 1.61 crore were domestic and 57,920 people were foreign tourists. The number of visitors to Jammu and Kashmir is also lower compared to 2018, when the tourist numbers stood at over 1.72 crore, including 1.70 crore domestic and over 1.39 lakh foreign visitors.
However, there are signs of the tide gradually turning after the government opened the Union Territory for tourism now, according to industry players. Several tourists visited Gulmarg, Sonamarg and Pahalgam—the three main destinations in the Valley that are a favourite among tourists—and bookings and inquiries by visitors, especially for the winter months, have witnessed a slow but steady increase over the last few weeks.
“Unlock Kashmir” is a movement started by the Jammu and Kashmir tourism department, to promote the tourism activities in the Valley. After 15 months, tourism activities have started in the Valley, tourists are reaching Srinagar after Diwali.
Farooq Ahmad Kuthoo, president of Travels Agents Association of Kashmir (TAAK), is among those optimistic about the prospects. “Some movement has started as positive news has gone out and the Tourism Department has started different activities. So, people’s interest in travelling to Kashmir is increasing and we are hopeful that we will at least have some traffic for the winter season if not cent percent revival,”
As many as 2,238 tourists have arrived in the Valley during the last two weeks and the travel queries are on a rise. Tour operators from outside the Valley, who are accompanying groups of tourists, are optimistic for revival of tourism in the valley.
Satish Shah, owner of Mumbai-based Pooja Tours and Travels, who is presently in the Valley accompanying a group of 90 tourists from Maharashtra, said that all protocols related to Covid-19 such as “wearing of face-masks and sanitisation of hotels are being followed”.
Mumbai-based operator Satish Shah launched a campaign by the name of “Unlock Kashmir’ and kept encouraging people to visit the Valley. There is demand for domestic tourism as there are still restrictions on international tourism and travel; the “worst downturn” in Kashmir’s tourism sector of late was witnessed after the February 2019 Pulwama attack and more recently after the outbreak of Covid-19, which even led to job losses in the hospitality sector. However, Shah said the fresh snowfall in upper reaches, especially Gulmarg, has “sent out a positive message to prospective tourists”. Shah has been promoting Kashmir tourism for the last 25 years. He is the first tour operator who reached Kashmir Valley with the group of 100 tourists to valley in the last 15 months.
Jammu Kashmir Tourism Department director Nisar Wani said: “We are promoting Jammu and Kashmir in various parts of the country. We are doing road shows; due to Covid and the lockdown, tourism has been badly affected in the valley. We are hopeful for revive in tourism in the next two months.”
Gulmarg assistant tourism director Javed Rehman said that from October, domestic tourists are visiting Gulmarg. Due to fresh snowfall, every day 300 tourists are visiting Gulmarg. “We are organising a winter festival and Khelo India to Gulmarg.”
Sultan Shaikh said that Kashmir has been badly affected in the last 15 months, and now “we are hopeful to revive the tourism sector. Every year, 60% Gujaratis, 20% Maharashtrians and 10% Bengalis visit the Valley. We are wooing the Gujarat and Maharashtra tour operators to the Valley.”
Chandrkant Gala and his wife are in Kashmir for the first time, visiting various tourist places of Srinagar, Pahalgam, Sonamarg and Gulmarg. Gala said they feel safe in Kashmir. “It’s really heaven on earth. During 8 months of lockdown, my wife was fed up sitting at home; so, we decided to visit Kashmir.”
Like Gala, another Mumbai resident Sanjay Parmar visited Kashmir with his wife Manju. Parmar said that they visited Kashmir in the 1980s for honeymoon. They stayed here for one month. Kashmir has not changed over a period of time, he said. After more than two decades, they visited the valley, but its beauty is still as pristine as ever. Sanjay and his wife visited the valley with pooja tours and travels.
Parmar said: “All members of our family were working from home; so, I thought of visiting Kashmir in winter. Here, there is no fear of Covid-19, unlike in Mumbai.”
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NHRC issues show cause notice to Defence Ministry over relief amount for death of citizen in Army firing in Arunachal
New Delhi [India], February 26 (ANI): The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) India on Wednesday issued a notice to the Union Ministry of Defence to cite a reason why Rs 5 lakh could not be paid as relief to the next of the kin of an innocent citizen Thingtu Ngemu, who died in the uninformed and indiscriminate firing by the Army unit of 21 Para Special Forces during an operation against Naxalites in Arunachal Pradesh in 2017.
According to a statement issued by NHRC on Friday, the Commission has communicated that the case needs to be treated as special because the Judicial Enquiry Magistrate has held that the PSF personnel are responsible for the death of an innocent citizen.
The Commission has also emphasized that if the Defence Ministry pays the relief amount to the victim’s family on the basis of its show cause notice in such cases, it will send positive signals amongst the locals and the credibility of the Armed Forces shall also improve. The response is expected within four weeks.
The Commission had registered the case on June 29, 2017, on the basis of intimation from the Superintendent of Police of Arunachal Pradesh’s Changland, regarding the death of Thingtu Ngemu during an action by the security forces against naxalites in Nantok circle District Changlang.
Subsequently, the Commission through its Investigation Division found that the Judicial Magistrate, First Class, District Changlang, had conducted the enquiry in the matter. It is recorded, in his report that the PSF personnel neither cooperated nor submitted any statements regarding the operation despite official letters and request of the Enquiry Magistrate.
After considering the relevant evidences, the Judicial enquiry officer found that the Army Unit of 21 Para Special Forces (PSF) of Jorhat had laid ambush within the reachable range of civilian/villagers, without any knowledge of local civil police or villagers, which was undesirable and dangerous for the inhabitants. Further, the PSF personnel detained a local innocent villager Tuwang Ngemu till late night without any reason, while he was returning from his own garden. He should have been allowed to go home after ascertaining his identity.
As a result, the other villagers and family members came towards the forest in search of Tuwang Ngemu. The PSF should have used night vision glasses/equipment to see through the dark night hours and should have identified innocent empty handed villagers. They should have also heard the shouts of the villagers, who were searching their man, who was already detained by the PSF. Instead they resorted to blind firing without any provocation, which led to the killing of an innocent villager under the pretext of “mistaken identity”.
The enquiry Magistrate has also reported that the PSF continued firing indiscriminately from one side till 3 am of next morning of June 15, 2017 without any retaliation or any cross-firing from anywhere. Such a blunder and irresponsible action is unjustified.
Holding the PSF personnel responsible for the death of Thingtu Ngemu, the enquiry magistrate noted that the victim was innocent and had no connection with any outfit. The deceased is survived by his old ailing parents, wife and two small children. He was the primary bread earner and now the family has no source of livelihood.
Based on the analysis and inputs of the facts by its Investigation Division, the Commission, U/s 19 of PHR Act, has issued the show cause notice why the victim’s family should not be paid the monetary relief. (ANI)
Yediyurappa launches KSRTC’s ‘Namma Cargo’ service
Bengaluru (Karnataka) [India], February 26 (ANI): Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa on Friday inaugurated new ‘parcel and cargo’ services ‘Namma Cargo’ services at Vidhana Soudha.
According to a press statement issued by Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC), the Parcel and Cargo Service is being implemented in Karnataka and select locations of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Goa, Maharashtra, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
“The step has been taken to generate revenue,” the statement read.
It is estimated that luggage revenue generation will go up to Rs 70 to Rs 80 crores per annum.
In the first phase, 88 taluks and bus stations of Karnataka and 21 inter-state places and 109 bus stations are covered in this new project.
In the coming days, this project will be extended to other bus stations in the state and home delivery services will also be provided under this project.
Karnataka Health Minister K Sudhakar and several other dignitaries were present at the event.
“Mobile Blood Donation Bus” was also inaugurated in collaboration with KSRTC, KIDWAI and ROTARY.
The Blood Donation Bus will be utilised to motivate the self-inspired blood donors. (ANI)
Karnataka reports 571 new COVID-19 cases
New Delhi [India], February 26 (ANI): Karnataka reported 571 new COVID-19 cases, 642 recoveries, and 4 deaths in the last 24 hours, as per State Health Department’s data on Friday.
The total cases now reached 9,50,207 including 12,320 deaths. The overall recoveries now climbed to 9,32,367 and there are only 5,501 active cases.
Meanwhile, the country recorded 16,577 new COVID-19 cases, 12,179 discharges and 120 deaths in the last 24 hours, according to the Union Health Ministry.
The total cases in the country reached 1,10,63,491 including 1,07,50,680 recoveries and 1,56,825 deaths. However, there are only 1,55,986 active cases. (ANI)
Congress prepared for upcoming Assembly polls, says KC Venugopal
New Delhi [India], February 26 (ANI): Congress leader KC Venugopal on Friday said his party is totally prepared for upcoming Assembly elections in four states and one Union Territory, adding that they have finalised alliances in some of the states.
“Congress is totally prepared for elections. We will appeal to the people for change, for good governance. Alliance for Assam has been finalised. In Kerala and West Bengal, the alliance also almost finalised. In Tamil Nadu, talks underway on the alliance,” Venugopal told ANI.
Earlier in the day, the Election Commission of India (ECI) announced Assembly elections in Assam, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Kerala and Puducherry.
Commenting on Rahul Gandhi’s “MP in North” remark, he said that Gandhi praised Kerala but this does not mean he criticised north India.
“Rahul Gandhi in his speech praised Kerala. But this does not mean he criticised north India. For Congress, India is one. We respect the merits of each state. This is our party’s tradition and that is what he highlighted,” he said.
Gandhi, who addressed an event to mark the conclusion of ‘Aishwarya Kerala Yatra’ in poll-bound Kerala on Tuesday, had said he had been MP for 15 years from the north and had been used to a different type of politics and coming to Kerala was very refreshing.
“For the first 15 years, I was an MP in the north. I had got used to a different type of politics. For me, coming to Kerala was very refreshing as suddenly I found that people are interested in issues not just superficially but they like to go into detail about issues,” he had said.
“I was talking to some students in the United States and I said to them I really enjoy going to Kerala. It’s not just affection but the way you do your politics, the intelligence with which you do your politics. So, for me, it’s been a learning experience and a pleasure,” he had added.
Gandhi had represented Amethi, a bastion of the Nehru-Gandhi family, for 15 years in Lok Sabha. He fought from two constituencies in 2019 and was defeated from Amethi but won from Wayanad in Kerala. (ANI)
Holistic development of North-east being planned, says Harsh Vardhan after laying foundation stone of Mon Medical College in Nagaland
Mon (Nagaland) [India], February 26 (ANI): Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Friday laid the foundation stone of the Mon Medical College here in Mon district and underscored that the government is planning holistic development of North-east and carrying out it on the ground.
Chief Minister of Nagaland Neiphiu Rio, Health Minister of the state S Pangnyu Phom and Lok Sabha MP from Nagaland Tokheho Yepthomi were also present at the event.
Speaking at the event, Dr Harsh Vardhan said, “At present, there are 562 medical colleges in the country out of which 286 are in government sector while 276 are in private sector. Another 175 medical colleges are also in the process of development. Against 52,000 MBBS seats in 2013-14, there are now 84,000 UG seats. Several medical commissions are also being set up. Around 1,50,000 health and wellness centres have been set up in the country.”
Expressing his elation at the opening of the second medical college in the state, he said that this medical college is approved at a cost Rs 325 crore under Phase III of the Centrally Sponsored Scheme for establishment of new medical colleges attached with existing district/referral hospitals.
The project will have a central share of Rs 292.50 crore and is slated to be completed by 2023-24. “The setting up of the new college in Mon, one of the most backward and farthest districts from the state capital will help bring affordable secondary healthcare facilities to the doorsteps of nearly 2.5 lakh people,” he said.
He also lauded the efforts of healthcare workers in combating COVID-19 and stated, “India is ahead of many developed countries in the war against the pandemic”. He also mentioned the significance of the Ayushman Bharat programme, asserting that the government aims to eliminate Tuberculosis by 2025 from the country and urged the state government to work to ensure the same.
Chief Minister Rio in his address observed that the college will not only benefit Mon and Nagaland but also the people living in neighbouring states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh and even Myanmar.
Stating that the college will be run by the state government under PPP mode, he outlined that Mon Medical College is one of the 75 district medical colleges to be constructed in the districts of the country where people have been historically deprived of development and health facilities (due to their locational disadvantage). (ANI)
Terrorist hideout busted in J-K’s Reasi district, cache of arms and ammunition recovered
Reasi (Jammu and Kashmir) [India], February 26 (ANI): In a joint operation, the Mahore Police, Army and the Central Reserve Police Force’s 126 Battalion on Friday busted a terrorist hideout in Jammu and Kashmir’s Reasi district and recovered arms and ammunition, including explosives and automatic rifles.
Based on specific information from a reliable source regarding the suspicious movement in Upper Sildhar and adjoining areas of Ranjati top and Rousouwali top, a joint party of Jammu and Kashmir Police from the Mahore police station, the army and the CRPF’s 126 Battalion launched a cordon and search operation in the Upper Sildhar Forest area, Ranjati top area, Rousowali Top and areas adjoining Dagantop hills early morning.
During the search, an underground hideout was found from which a huge cache of arms and ammunition was recovered.
The seizure includes one AK-47 rifle with 22 magazines and 150 cartridges, one rocket launcher, 16 under-barrel grenade launcher (UBGL) grenades, 4 hand grenades and two very high frequency (VHF) radio sets with antennas.
“The timely recovery of a huge cache of arms and ammunition has thwarted any possible untoward incident in the otherwise peaceful region and has scuttled the nefarious plans of terrorist outfits to derail peace and harmony in the region South of Pir Panjal Ranges,” police said.
A case under the Explosive Act and other relevant section of law has been registered at the Mahore police station Mahore and an investigation has started.
It is pertinent to mention here that on February 18, 2021, a terrorist hideout was busted in the Makhidar Forest area, Upper Shikari in which another huge cache of arms and ammunition’s was recovered.
Meanwhile, in another joint operation launched by the police and the army based on disclosure by an arrested terrorist, arms and ammunition including 4 grenades, 15 pistol bullets and 10 AK-47 bullets were recovered from the forest area of Balakote, said Poonch Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Ramesh Kumar Angral on Friday. (ANI)
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