A Maruti Van went off a road near Kolhukhet on Saturday and landed some twenty feet on another road below. It was completely pulverised. The four passengers emerged seriously injured, but fortunately alive. They were saved, partly because of the trees on the hillside that slowed the fall, and the sturdiness of the vehicle. It was only luck that the van did not fall on a vehicle passing below, otherwise a serious tragedy could have resulted.
This incident is an augury of the things to come. The road to Mussoorie has never been an example of good engineering or design – it now faces the challenge of an ever increasing number of vehicles. The situation, at present, has been made even worse by its having been dug up for the laying of sewer lines. Repairs are on, but it is a race against time as the tourist season will explode once the board exams everywhere get over.
Every visit to Mussoorie only underlines the fact that the government lacks imagination and commitment in dealing with the problem, and fails to understand the great urgency of improving connectivity between the valley and Mussoorie. Garhwal Post has several times mooted the setting up of parking sites in the Doon Valley, where those driving in from elsewhere could safely keep their vehicles, using luxury buses shuttling between there and Mussoorie to go up to the hill resort and enjoy a hassle-free holiday. It would take the pressure off Mussoorie’s roads. The hotels in the town could also provide their own transport to customers. This would be an alternative to driving up, which could be further discouraged by charging a hefty tax on taking vehicles up to the town.
Also, a ropeway or trolley system – as exist in the Alps – could be constructed, providing tourists not only a means to go up into the hills, but also a splendid trip through the picturesque and wooded hills. Government policy should be that Mussoorie become the hub for a variety of activities spread in a radius of a hundred kilometres, instead of being a mere destination. People ought to visit for at least week long visits, going for trips to places especially developed for leisure, adventure, picnics and sight-seeing like Kempty, Dhanaulti, Chamba, Lakhwar, etc. They should be encouraged to walk or ride on most of these excursions, instead of charging around the hill roads in diesel guzzling and pollution spewing SUVs. Tourists spend more time caught in infuriating traffic jams than on doing anything else on their Mussoorie trips. The more distant places could be accessed by well-maintained, round the clock luxury mini-buses.
The town also stubbornly persists in presenting its down at heel image to the visitors, many of which now have experience of resorts in foreign countries. They can only despair at the persisting ugliness of the place, trapped in the small shopkeeper mentality. For too many of the residents, even a slight improvement or change would represent the immediate loss of livelihood – as was the case with those plying their trade in Dehradun’s ‘Suicide Alley’. To make things worse, under cover of a Supreme Court order, government policy and bureaucratic corruption have seriously obstructed repair and renovation activities – major reconstruction of the town to suit present day needs is impossible to contemplate. As a result, Mussoorie can no longer be described as the ‘Queen of the Hills’ and is turning by the day into just another one of the shanty towns scattered around Garhwal, serving the hinterland as mere market places.
It is a sad fact, but after the departure of the former Secretary NN Prasad, the tourism sector in the state has lost its energy. Hopefully, the new dispensation will exhibit an imaginative and innovative approach to developing the industry. Otherwise, even the existing assets will decline to insignificance.