Srinagar, Dec 07: The first major attraction to the tourists in the valley Houseboat is struggling to stay afloat, as the sector has come to a grinding halt post abrogation of Article 370 followed by the Coronavirus pandemic.
The Kashmir Houseboat Owners Association (KHBOA) believes that the lackadaisical approach of the government has added to the miseries of the houseboat owners.
“Our sector has been hit hard and the decisions made regarding the renovation of houseboats which are in dilapidated conditions have made things worse for us,” Chairman of KHBOA Hameed Wangnoo said, while talking to the news agency—Kashmir News Observer (KNO).
“In 2019 all the tourists putting up across the Valley were forced to leave the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir including the Yartis from the houseboats, hotels, leaving our economy in doldrums,” he said. “It led to the loss of Rs 150 crore.”
Wagnoo said that in the tourism industry, houseboat business is the most affected sector, as there is no other source of income for people associated with it.
“Houseboats are made of fragile wood that requires time to time renovation and maintenance but the government has stopped giving timber to owners used for repairing and the owners aren’t allowed to undertake the renovation work at all,” he said.
Hameed said that in recent days seven houseboats have drowned for the want of renovation.
“Since the government has entirely barred the repairing work, owners don’t have enough money to undertake any work by its own,” he said.
Wagnoo said if the government fails to protect and preserve the major tourist attraction houseboat sector that holds an exclusive significance across the globe, “the industry will come to an end soon”.
“At least 3 lakh are people associated with it, which will lose their livelihood,” he said.
Blaming the government for not initiating the concrete steps towards the revival of the tourism industry, Wagnoo said that the government recently launched the business revival policy, “but by far failed to implement it as those at the helm of affairs claim to have no funds for implementing it.”
He said that very few owners have borrowed money from the bank but the association has asked for the business loss from the government.
“The August 05 last year lockdown worsened the J&Ks economy and pushed the tourism industry to the back foot but in particular, it impacted the houseboat sector which needs maintenance throughout the year”, the KHBOA chairman said.
Regarding the guidelines implemented by the government, the chairman said that the owners aren’t eligible to renew any registration.
“We want the guidelines to be simplified”—(KNO)