State BJP President Rajeev Bindal also took a jibe at the state government's decision to celebrate the completion of one-year rule.
The rain-ravaged hill stations of Kullu-Manali and LahaulSpiti districts in Himachal Pradesh remained cut off from the rest of the world on most of the days in the month of August. This, after the national highway which connects these twin towns to other parts of the state and the country collapsed near Pandoh dam in the neighbouring Mandi district.
As a result, life and livelihood here have come to a complete halt. For the past seven days, there has been no supply of petrol, diesel, LPG, or daily essentials like bread, butter, milk, vegetables, etc. Also, the huge apple crop ~ about one lakh apple boxes ~ that has been plucked and was ready for transportation is nearly rotting as orchardists anxiously await the opening of the road. Deputy Commissioner of Kullu Ashutosh Garg initially confirmed that the main highway is closed at Pandoh. However, a few hours later it was opened partially for smaller vehicles involved in emergency services. DC Garg said, “Yes, LPG and fuel supplies had been cut off and we were rationing vehicle fuel so that we do not run out of it.”
He added: “The only other access to the outside world through Kandi-Kataula was made operational. But that is a very narrow road through which only utility vehicles can be driven.” He also confirmed that the supply of daily provision has been hit and the apple crop which has to be ferried out of Kullu and Manali too is stuck. Adding to what the DC, Kullu, said, Anil Kant, a Kullubased entrepreneur, has this to say: “For seven days there was no outside connectivity to Kullu and even now only essential items are being ferried in and out of here such as LPG, etc.”
He rues that on top of that, there is also a shortage of drivers who can drive vehicles carrying essentials through the Kandi-Kataula road since it is very narrow. The drivers who come from Chandigarh and Ambala are not able to navigate their vehicles on such narrow roads. Also, the sabzi mandi has been asked to shut and farmers have been advised not to pluck fruits and vegetables to avoid decay. Sanjay Thakur, also a local from Kullu, highlights another dimension to the problem. He says: “In the normal course, Mandi to Kullu is a one-hour drive if the national highway was open.
But right now through the alternate route of Kamand-Kataula, it takes anything between five to seven hours.” Mr Thakur added that the alternate route is open only for emergency services and not for normal traffic and tourists. Anup Thakur, Kullu-Manali Prayatan Vikas Mandal president, sums up the current scenario: “The entire economy of the two districts ~ Lahaul & Spiti and Kullu district (which also includes Manali) ~ in the form of tourism, horticulture, and agriculture has come to a halt.”
Forced to sit at home for the past month is Bhuvanesh Thakur who owns an adventure sports activity firm in Kullu-Manali called Origa. He says: “All activities like trekking, cycling, mountaineering, and rafting have been closed.” His worst fear is the longterm impact this devastation may have on adventure sports since it will put at risk the careers of thousands of people who earn their bread and butter from it.