Srinagar: It was normal for 45-year-old Mohammad Akram Khan of Keran to work as a daily wager in Srinagar for seven months.
Since his hometown was mostly affected by cross-border shelling, people would go to other districts in search of work. However, Khan has not moved out of his town for the last two years, thanks to the government’s border tourism push. During summer, his home is the most sought-after place for tourists and locals who visit the Keran to enjoy breathtaking beauty. “After Keran was opened for tourism, I converted my house into a homestay. Tourists love to stay in my home. They enjoy local meals and the culture. Even locals who visit Keran do stay in my home,” he said. The same is the case with the other people who too have set up their businesses in the border area, thereby shunning seasonal migration towards towns and cities. The opening of border tourism has infused new life into the remote villages along the Line of Control (LoC), offering livelihood opportunities for the locals who have long endured the challenges of living in conflict-stricken areas. From homestays to handicrafts and food stalls, a lot of new ventures are coming up in Keran and Tanghdar, which are becoming an attraction for locals and tourists. “A lot of youth here have set up their shops. Many offer tents on rent so that people who come here for a visit don’t face any problems,” said Mohammad Amin Khan, another local. In the Uri area of Baramulla, locals wasted no time in seizing the opportunity, setting up a range of services catering to the growing number of tourists. The majority of the locals from the area would also move to Baramulla and Srinagar in search of work. Now small-scale hospitality businesses and traditional cuisine restaurants have sprung up across the area. “I am working as a cab driver and would mostly stay in Srinagar throughout the year. For the last one year, I haven’t moved out of my district. A lot of people are visiting Uri to explore the border area, particularly Kaman Post. We give transport services to the tourists from Uri town to the border areas,” Said Riya Ahmad Dar, a local cab driver. Pertinently, the tourism department is also promoting the border areas and has started building infrastructure for the tourists. The department has set a target of 200 homestays in the Keran area to overcome accommodation issues this year