Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha  announced a ₹3 crore relief package for people associated with the tourism sector that has taken a severe hit due to the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

Under this package, ₹2,000 financial assistance will be provided to 4,444 registered Shikara owners, 1,370 tourist guides, 6,663 ponywalas and 2,150 others including those who rent palanquins for yatris. The money will be paid for two months.

“The relief will be transferred to only those who are registered with the tourism department,” said an official.

Those in the tourism sector say this was a very limited package.

The package does not have anything for travel agents, owners of Kashmir’s famed houseboats, hotels and transport operators.

This package should at least extend amnesty for power and water bills for the tourism infrastructure, said Dr Umar Nazir Tibet Baqal, member of the TAAK Travel agents’ association of Kashmir.

Jammu and Kashmir’s tourism sector has been in a bad shape for most of the last two years, beginning with the August decision to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and with the government asking tourists to leave the region. Tour operators had hoped that the tourist inflow would improve last year but the Covid pandemic kept most people away.

The sector appeared to have been successful to get on its feet early this year and it did improve.

The government also opened Tulip Garden on the banks of Dal Lake from March 25 despite an increase in Kashmir’s Covid-19 figures.

But the Covid-19’s second wave, which wreaked havoc across the country, led to cancellation of the bookings.

“This year we were expecting a bumper tourism season which would break all past records. From December onwards, I think more than 1.5 lakh tourists have visited the valley already. Unfortunately, the second wave hit the region and the season is gone,” said an officer bearer of a tour and trade association in Kashmir on condition of anonymity.

As the disease started spreading in Jammu and Kashmir as well, the administration last month started imposing curfew in districts.

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