Too many suitors for Queen of the Hills

Too many suitors for Queen of the Hills

(Photo: Getty Images)

The 'Incredible Himachal' punchline embraced by the state has a definite resonance, with pristine beauty in abundance in various nooks and corners of Himachal Pradesh. Over the ages, cashing on the exquisite charm, the thriving tourism industry has become a mainstay of the hill state.

Many prominent places have been converted into famous tourist destinations, attracting droves of tourists, both domestic as well as foreign.

While some of the places continue to be blessed with Nature's beauty in abundance, and are still untouched by rampant progress and development activity, many have been converted into concrete jungles for sustenance of the local populace and to meet the tourism industry's demands. The tourist footfall in the state has witnessed an increase over the years as per the data compiled by the state tourism and civil aviation authorities.

Last year, the overall tourist footfall in the state was 1.84 crore inclusive of 79,97,750 Indian and 4,52,770 foreign tourists, an increase of 5.24 per cent over the previous year. In 2015 it was 1.74 crore, while in 2014 it was 1.63 crore. The 'Queen of the Hills' is not only the top tourist destination in the state but has also figured amongst the top tourist destinations in the country. Shimla alone witnessed a footfall of 34.16 lakh of tourist in 2016.

Nonetheless, the much desired tourist-friendly measures seem to be lacking. Administrative failures and poor policing often leaves the tourist at the receiving end, sometimes transforming the much-cherished memories they take back home into a nightmare. However, the grievances of the tourists as well as locals have fallen on deaf years. Seeing the lack of measures to make the tourist places better, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has taken cognisance and asked the state government to take steps to reduce air and noise pollution in the state capital.

To manage traffic congestion, they had asked the government to consider implementing one-way traffic on Cart Road, the circular road in the state capital. In absence of any system in place, the tribulations of the tourist continue as they are forced to bear the brunt of traffic congestion and haphazard parking. When they face problems, the much-needed official assistance is almost naught and they have to depend on the public for directions.

Shimla city is already struggling hard to cope with the vehicle influx on a daily basis. There are more than 95,000 registered vehicles in the city and around 3,000-4,000 tourists enter Shimla on a daily basis, especially during the peak tourist season. Even the scarce paid parking lots in the city are constantly under pressure. Getting a space is a big accomplishment but parking is at owner's risk. "Not ready to offer any security, the companies running the parking lots shirk responsibility by categorically mentioning in the fee slip that they are not responsible for loss or damage to the vehicle.

This definitely not encouraging, considering that safety is the prime concern for any vehicle owner," points out Parmeet Singh, a tourist. Shimla Hoteliers Association President Harnam Kukreja has been vocal about traffic problems. He said, "The tourist is often at the receiving end when it comes to mobility in the city. Adequate parking places are a major problem especially when the city is 'House Full' during tourist season.

Caught unawares for wrong parking or any minor violation of traffic rules, they are immediately slapped with a challan by the traffic police, leaving them disgruntled." As a tourist-friendly initiative, Kukreja had suggested that instead of a issuing a challan, they should be spared for the first offence and let off after a warning. The association, during numerous meetings with the police, suggested that tourist friendly policing should be evolved. Though they were given assurances, no concrete measures have been taken, he added.

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