M Aamir Khan
Tribune News Service
Srinagar, June 30
The unveiling of the new houseboat draft policy in Jammu & Kashmir has set off concern among houseboat owners who claim it would spell disaster for what are known as the `marvels' of the world famous Dal lake.
Under the new policy, no new houseboat will be allowed to be constructed in Dal/Nigeen Lake. Also, houseboats owners will be able to register/renew their houseboats only after fulfilling certain stringent conditions. ``Houseboat is the novelty of the world but unfortunately in 20 years time, there will be no houseboats left. We expect the government to call for full-body meeting of the stakeholders consisting of approximately 850 families," said Kashmir Houseboats Owners Association (KHBOA) general secretary Abdul Rashid, a day after the tourism department announced putting up the draft policy in public domain.
Joint secretary general of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries (KCC&I), Sheikh Gowhar Ali, said the houseboat owners and shikarawallas were already struggling from August last year when abrogation of Article 370 had thrown normal life out of gear.
"Harsh and unworkable conditions are required to be fulfilled for the houseboats to be eligible for registration and operation, ’’ he said.
The introduction of the policy, ironically, has come at a time when the Government itself has extended a helping hand to the sector by announcement of a three month intervention of Rs. 1,000/- a month for Houseboat owners and Shikarawallas.
"At a time when most of the population was finding it difficult to earn a livelihood and arrange food for their families, the reason for rushing through the houseboat policy was hard to comprehend," added Sheikh Gowhar.
THE WORLD FAMOUS KASHMIR HOUSEBOATS
* Houseboats in past have attracted Indian film-stars and other high-profile guests
*International celebrities like Beatles lead guitarist George Harrison too have stayed in houseboats
*Number of houseboats in Srinagar's water-bodies have dipped from 1500 to 900
*Houseboat owners say permissions for repairs & procurement of timbre remains cumbersome
*Owners also have been decrying government apathy for lack of funding towards preserving houseboats
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