Since the August move of the BJP Government that abrogated the Article 370, the valley’s tourism has thrived just as predicted with an unprecedented dip of 87% in Domestic and 82% Foreign Tourists arriving in Modi’s New Kashmir.
Modi-Modi-Modi, a name that has changed the entire Indian demography through persuasive speeches and polarization of public opinion. Vote-bank politics disguised as an emotional reformation of India was touted as the magic wand that will finally improve the living conditions in the valley and change the life of the common people in Kashmir.
The four-month figure from August to November marks a steep 87% decline of domestic tourists and 82% of foreign tourists’ arrival.
Indeed, life has changed for the common Kashmiri, from waning hope of a prosperous future to a blanket of hopelessness. Data gathered by TOI from online travel operators shows that queries for flights and accommodation in Kashmir have fallen more than 50 percent. While 60-70 percent of hotels in Kashmir are operational, there are hardly any bookings.
Tourism in Kashmir under Modi’s Stewardship
In comparison to the situation before August, a minuscule number of domestic tourists visited Kashmir till November since the abrogation of Article 370 and 35a. While Indian PM Narendra Modi stressed on the fact that the majority of Kashmir was happy with the move, there has been widespread disappointment among the people in the valley due to the ongoing restrictions.
While 2,48,788 domestic tourists visited Kashmir in 2018 between August and November, the number in 2019 is 32,411.
Modi encouraged people to improve conditions and revive tourism. He is now the new ambassador with a mission that tourism thrives in Jammu & Kashmir. Consequently, with India’s charismatic Prime Minister as the face and over 7 lakh soldiers making sure that tourists are safe in the valley, there has been a spurt.
While 2,48,788 lakh domestic tourists and 19,167 foreign tourists visited Kashmir in 2018 between August and November, the numbers have had a steep fall to 32,411 and 3,413 respectively this year for the same period.
Brace for an excellent experience in the valley on New Year’s Eve
Half of the state is now under snow. The weather adds to the inactivity due to the substantial fall in the number of tourists arriving in the valley. November was the best month in the recent bleak times. Domestic tourist arrival stood at 10,946, and foreign tourists were 1,140. As per public opinion, the biggest deterrent for tourists is the ongoing internet restriction in the valley.
The biggest deterrent for tourists is the ongoing internet restriction in the valley.
Although the ruling BJP has claimed that curfew and restrictions in the valley are being gradually eased, the situation remains like “Martial Rule”, even if that isn’t being said in the public domain. Millions living in the valley are grappling for their human rights since the last 4 months. It seems the unprecedented attempts of the Modi Govt. to bring normalcy and peace in the valley will take much longer than expected.
Furthermore, with ongoing restrictions, business and economy are underwhelming. The volatility is also a huge deterrent to travelers to Kashmir.
The Thriving but Invisible Economy of a Hapless Valley
When the BJP government moved forward with the monumental misadventure in Kashmir, tourists were told to “immediately” leave on August 2 due to concerns about ‘terror threats’. As per reports, over 3 lakh tourists and pilgrims left the state in hurry after a travel advisory by the Indian government. The travel advisory was lifted two months after the move.
Modi government’s plans for an investor summit in Kashmir to be held in October have been postponed until 2020.
Since then, Kashmir has witnessed empty markets, unpicked rotten apples, and a difficult business environment for the locals. As part of the development plan, the Modi government had announced an investor summit in Kashmir to be held in October. However, the summit plans have been postponed until 2020.
Similarly, India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani had announced at Reliance Industries 42nd Annual General Meeting that “Responding to the Prime Minister’s appeal, we stand committed to support people of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh in all their developmental needs.” Ambani stated plans of creating a ‘special task force’. He also said that the company will make several announcements of developmental initiatives in Kashmir in the coming months. However, there has been no word since.
As per the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), the move has cost the valley over Rs. 100 billion since the move from the center. KCCI intends to sue the Indian government for losses.
Can Modi Government attract tourists back to Kashmir in a lockdown state?
In the aftermath of the bifurcation of the region, the Modi government promised rapid economic development. It claimed that the move will make several top companies foray into the valley, create jobs and ‘lure young people away from militancy’. But the situation is far from those claims.
J&K Lt. Governor Girish Chandra Murmu recently stated that the Tourism Development Authorities across the new union territory needed restructuring to revive the influx of travelers to the valley and ensure tourism thrives in the new Kashmir. The state tourism department has launched a seven-week long promotional roadshow pan-India to revive the industry in Kashmir.
Kashmir tourism department has launched a seven-week long promotional roadshow pan-India and overseas.
To continue from December till mid-February, the campaign will visit major cities like Mumbai, Pune, Ahmedabad, Surat, Nagpur, Indore, Bhopal, Bengaluru. More cities also in the plan are Mysore, Kolkata, Bhubaneswar, Chennai, Kochi, Ranchi, and Varanasi. Furthermore, the campaign will then travel overseas to Thailand, Sharjah, and Dubai in the UAE.