Shikara owners struggle to keep head above water

SRINAGAR: Ghulam Muhammad, 50, a boatman in the Dal Lake, looks desperate as he walks slowly and takes a deep breath.

Shikara owners struggle to keep head above water

Boatsmen in Srinagar are finding it hard to make ends meet. File photo

editorial@tribune.com

Rifat Mohidin
Tribune News Service
Srinagar, August 13

Ghulam Muhammad, 50, a boatman in the Dal Lake, looks desperate as he walks slowly and takes a deep breath. He has not made any money since August 5 when the government issued an advisory for all tourists to leave Kashmir immediately. His livelihood for the season is over.

An asthma patient, Muhammad had been looking for medicines for his wife, which he got after much difficulty at Dalgate. He also worries about feeding his family and taking care of his ailing wife in the coming days, as there is little hope that any tourist will visit Kashmir soon.

The Dal Lake looks deserted, and Muhammad says this was not the situation even in the 1990s when the situation in the Valley was worse. He blames the government for snatching the livelihood of thousands of people like him. He fears that no tourist will return to Kashmir this season.

“What will we do?” he asks.

There are thousands of boatmen, houseboat owners and hoteliers in Kashmir whose livelihood is dependent on the tourism industry.

“Our situation is like farmers who are forced to commit suicide,” said Shahid, another boatman who is now selling vegetables on the roadside.

Most of the boatmen have tied their ‘shikaras’ on the banks of the lake as there are no takers for the joyride. Before the advisory, there were more than 20,000 tourists in the Valley.

“Would the government think of any compensation for us? It won’t care even if we die. What will happen to our families, our businesses? The government did not think for a moment.... They are going to make us beg,” said Abdul Rasheed, a houseboat owner.

Deserted look

  • Most of the boatmen have tied their ‘shikaras’ on the banks of the lake as there are no takers for the joyride
  • Before the advisory, there were more than 20,000 tourists in the Valley

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