By A Special Correspondent
The administration in Jammu & Kashmir has lifted the ban on tourists entering the state. But does it seriously think that anyone who thinks about the safety of family and self would consider visiting the valley now? With heavy security and barricading, absence of mobile telephony and internet, restrictions on movement within the valley, doubts over finding local transport and self-imposed shutdown of commercial establishments, even the brave hearts who do go will certainly not find themselves in âparadiseâ.
In any case, since things are not clear now, no amount of goading by the government can make people from the rest of India make Kashmir their next tourist destination in a hurry. Although the presence of so many security men can give feeling of safety, tourists will always be wary of the situation going out of hand at any time. Although some might be tempted by the rock bottom rates for both flight tickets and hotel rooms, safety concerns will put a dampener on the plans.
The government, on the other hand, is playing two cards. On the one hand it is trying to show the international community that things are slowly returning to normal in the valley. If tourists start visiting the state and if they do not face problems, there will be positive media reporting leading to an environment of trust and harmony.
On the other hand, the government is trying to provide the local population with a means to resume earning their livelihood. There is no doubt that tourism provides the livelihood for a large number of Kashmiris, directly or indirectly. Hence, if tourists start coming and raise the demand for goods and services, the self-imposed shutdown of most commercial establishments will be lifted. It is absolutely essential for normalcy to keep the local people occupied and provide them a means to earn money. Opening the state for tourists is the best way to do that.
But if the government wants tourists to come in large numbers it is absolutely essential that mobile telephony and internet services are restored in the valley. In this digital age, connectivity is a huge issue and no one likes to be out of touch with his near ones or his business contacts even for an hour. Hence, no one will think of going to Kashmir for a week if he or she knows that he or she will become incommunicado for that length of time. The government must find another way to prevent the misuse of social media since a blanket ban on internet and mobile telephony will prove a deterrent for tourism.