Srinagar, July 9: Gulmarg Gondola phase 1, a major tourist attraction for visitors has been closed for two months now for want of maintenance. The visitors are alleging that Jammu and Kashmir Cable Car Corporation has failed to maintain it during the off season. Official sources maintained that due to closure of the Gondola, the Corporation is losing a lot of revenue every day in what is considered as the peak of tourist season. “The closure of the cable car at Gulmarg is bringing disappointment to the tourists who plan their itineraries well in advance. We provide packages to the tourist and attract them for Gondola rides also. They feel disappointed when we inform them about its closure,” Muneer Ahmad a travel agent here in Rajbagh said. He said that the authorities should have started its maintenance during the lean season. “If its maintenance was due, it should have been done during off season so that tourists would enjoy its ride during peak season of this summer,” he maintained. However, the Phase 2nd from Kungdoori to Apparwath is open for commercial operations. In the absence of cable car facility upto phase 1, tourists are using All Terrain Vehicles and ponies to reach the base of second phase at Kungdoori, from where they take the Gondola ride upto Apparwath peak. There also have been complaints of tourists being overcharged by these operators. “The ponywallas are charging between Rs 1,500 and Rs 2,000 per tourists to take them to Kungdoori, wherefrom they can reach Apparwath by booking tickets for the second phase of the cable car which is operational. All-terrain vehicles are charging between Rs 3,500 and Rs 4,000 per trip for the same route,” said Shabir Ahmad, a resident of Srinagar who Sunday visited Gulmarg with his family. Sources said that the official rates fixed for the pony and all-terrain vehicles at Gulmarg are: Pony: Rs. 350 for first hour and Rs. 250 for every subsequent hour; all-terrain vehicle: Rs 300 for 15 minutes, Rs 1200 per hour. To reach Kungdoori by pony, it generally takes about one hour and by vehicle about half an hour. Managing Director, J&K Cable Car Corporation, Shamim Ahmad Wani when contacted said that Phase 1 of Gulmarg Gondola will be functional within a week time. “The Phase 1 of Gulmarg Gondola would be made operational within a week as the shipment of the equipment to be replaced is expected to arrive within two days,” Shamim said. The official sources said that Gulmarg Gondola is undergoing maintenance on the advices of the French Company M/S Pomagalski which is responsible for its supply, erection and installation. The company commissioned the cable car in the year 1988 advised against its operation until its maintenance is done. French engineers had visited Gulmarg and sought the replacement of Hub and Shaft of these lifts,” said one of the officials of JK Cable Corporation. It is to mention here that the work on Gulmarg Gondola Project (Phase-I and Phase-II) was taken up for execution by the J&K Government through Department of Tourism in 1987.Kungdoori & Apparwath are 2 major attractions for Gulmarg Gondola riders.
Not holding simultaneous elections will impact voter turnout in LS polls: Experts
Srinagar, Mar 19: Not holding Assembly and Parliamentary polls together is likely to impact the overall voter turnout in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in the valley, claim valley based experts in politics.
This year many new parties have come to the fore and the Centre is likely to enhance its deployment of forces in Kashmir to ensure “violence free elections.”
However with spontaneous disturbance across the valley coupled with delaying of the Assembly elections by the Centre, the experts claim a major proportion of the people are likely to keep away from casting their votes.
“Parliamentary election in Kashmir usually invite low voter turnout. Had it been both Lok Sabha and General Assembly elections held together in the state the voter turnout could be expected higher. As of now, we don’t see chances of any major turn out in voting ahead especially in Kashmir,” said Prof Gul Muhammad Wani who teaches Political Science at Kashmir University.
Wani expressed doubt over the participation of newly formed parties in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.
“I am not sure if these smaller parties will field their candidates. Even if their leaders file nomination, people won’t vote for them in huge proportion compared to the two main political parties of Kashmir (NC and PDP),” Wani said.
“Many parties will use this election to mobilise people for the upcoming assembly elections,” he said.
In 2014 LS polls, 49.7 per cent voter turnout was recorded in Jammu and Kashmir. Barring Jammu, people mostly in Kashmir prefer to choose boycott over ballot as only 11.46% voter turnout was recorded in summer capital.
In 2017 by-polls, the turnout in Srinagar dipped further to only seven percent as violence and killing gripped the valley on poll day.
Prof Noor Ahmad Baba, another expert in politics, claims the parliamentary elections in Kashmir won’t be a “bigger affair” as he believes that there are less “reaction” votes from the valley.
“In other states people vote to express their dissent, which is not in case of Kashmir. Some people will vote here positively. The turnout is expected to be higher in Assembly polls ahead,” he said.
Prof Baba said the emergence of new parties too won’t woo many people to cast their vote for them.
“These new parties won’t have much impact immediately. Sajad Lone has no appeal outside Baramulla and Shah Faesal too can’t make a bigger difference. However, if NC and Congress form an alliance then some may come out to vote,” he said.
Slow repair work halts cross-LoC trade in Uri
Traders fear losses in crores
Srinagar, Mar 19: The Cross-LoC trade in Uri has hugely suffered due to snail-paced repair work on the Kamaan Post Bridge, traders rued on Tuesday.
As per them, around 116 trucks are stuck at Uri road in north Kashmir while 24 others are stranded at Traders Federation Center Salamabad. The stranded trucks are carrying delicate items including fruits and vegetables which cannot be preserved for long course of time.
Aggrieved over the losses, the Cross-LoC Traders Association claimed that the delicate goods in stranded trucks have been damaged due to the delay.
Speaking to The Kashmir Monitor, Hilal Turki, chairman, Cross-LoC Traders’ Association, said the items in the trucks have almost “perished” as around two weeks have passed since the repairing work started.
“The losses might be in crores as there are 140 trucks stranded. We have written to the Director General of Police to seek the intervention for speedy repairing of the bridge,” he said.
In a letter to government authorities, the association stated: “Our traders mostly deal with fresh items and the value of those items is in millions of rupees, here we would like to bring in your kind notice that most of the products come from all over the country and as such our loaded fresh trucks remain in transit for a week or more due to this uncomfortable situation our traders are desperately waiting for speedy repairing of Kamaan Pull so that heavy losses can be saved.”
Earlier on March 9, police communicated to the concern authorities that due to the sustained use of Kaman Aman Setu for cross-LoC trade for a long period, the bridge has suffered some damages which requires immediate repair to prevent further deportation.
“Inspection of the bridge was carried out on March 8, 2019, which indicated that the bridge needs urgent repairs and maintenance to ensure its longevity. The repair would require minimum 10-15 days,” he said.
However, around two weeks after, the repair work is still on at a very slow pace.
Riyaz Malik, SDM, Uri told The Kashmir Monitor that the resurfacing work in Kamaan Post bridge is going on. “Trade is suspended since then as work is going on and it will take 10-15 more days to allow traffic on the bridge. We have advised the traders to get the items down some where in Srinagar,” Riyaz said.
Cross-LoC trade and the bus service between India and Pakistan were suspended last month too, in backdrop of the Pulwama suicide attack in which 49 CRPF personnel were killed.
Centre misusing NIA to target Kashmiris: Soz
Srinagar, Mar 19: Alleging that Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre was misusing National Investigation Agency (NIA) to target Kashmiris, senior Congress leader Prof Saifuddin Soz on Tuesday said this will be useless and counter-productive.
The former union minister supported chairman of Hurriyat (M) Mirwaiz Umar Farooq who has asked NIA to question him in Srinagar as he cannot travel Delhi for security reasons.
In a statement here this afternoon, Prof Soz said, “I give credence to Mirwaiz Umar Farooq’s stand that he should be questioned anywhere in Srinagar and not asked to travel to NIA headquarters in Delhi”.
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