By Hugh & Colleen Gantzer
At long last we have managed to get some details of the proposed Purkul-Mussoorie Ropeway. A friend in Dehra has given us the link that worked the oracle. At first glance, we were thrilled. If the project lives up to its promise it could restore our little town’s position as the Queen of the Hills. But, sadly, first glances are not, always, the most lasting. Here, then, are the questions that beg for answers before we can, in all honesty acclaim the project as a brilliant initiative.
- The project will cost an estimated Rs 300 crores of our tax payers’ money. How long will it take to recover this money by the operation of the cable car? Why has the anticipated Cash Flow not been made public?
- Every fifteen minutes between 1000 and 1200 visitors will be brought to Mussoorie by the Ropeway. How will such an influx of visitors be conveyed around our little town? Mussoorie already suffers from traffic jams. How will this additional traffic be handled?
- If the ropeway passengers are expected to eat into the Taxi tourist traffic, will those families who depend on their taxis for a living, be adequately compensated. Taxi owners contribute substantially to the public exchequer. Should their money be used for the Ropeway without seeking their opinion in an open, public, debate in Musssoorie?
- A large segment of Mussoorie’s income is derived from its Hotels. Will Ropeway travellers be allowed to carry luggage in the Ropeway? If not, then Ropeway passengers will be day trippers, not Hotel guests. Is this acceptable to our Hoteliers?
- The majority of day-trippers, worldwide, are locals on an outing. In India, in particular, these folk are likely to carry their own packed lunch. At best they will buy snacks from street vendors. Will our Restaurants really benefit from such trippers?
- Shopping in Mussoorie is bound to be more expensive than shopping in the plains, the source-market of our day trippers. Would the trippers shop in Mussoorie? Or have our usually alert Traders not thought of that?
- If the Public-Private Partnership which will own the Ropeway plans to raise the price of Ropeway tickets to cater to the rich, then have they planned to offer protected and insured parking for the cars of their well-heeled passengers in Purkul?
- Have the ever-alert Members of our City Board realised that Ropeway passengers will by-pass the Eco-Cess Barrier? Or have the Ropeway owners agreed to compensate the Board for such loss?
- Medical experts, globally, assert that Covid is here to stay, and that we have to learn to live with it. Are the Ropeway owners planning to establish levels of hygiene in their cable cars conforming to the standards likely to be enforced three years from the start of the project? Passengers will be exposed to a confined space with strangers for at least 15 minutes.
- There was a proposal to introduce electric buggies to transport Ropeway tourists around Mussoorie. Can such buggies take our gradients? Will the buggy trip be exclusive of the Ropeway fare? When will the electric re-charging stations be installed? If the buggies are petrol driven has this additional pollution factor been determined? And why not re-introduce hand-pulled rickshaws, dandies and horses to capture the old character of Mussoorie, without the grave danger of Climate Change.
The bottom line is that Netas think in terms of footfalls while the common person thinks of rotis, kapada and makan. Plus education for their children. The Ropeway is a dazzling Pie-in-the-Sky and it will enrich its sponsors. Can’t we think of a better way of spending Rs 300 crore to improve the Quality of Life of Uttarakhandis? Have our netas forgotten our Ghost Villages, the Dragon breathing fire down our necks, the need to meet the aspirations of our common people?
Finally, the Ropeway may be a great Status Symbol. But remember, dear netas, that those who have the status don’t need the symbols.
Give our common people a better life. We are too small to handle mass tourism. It is better for one tourist to spend Rs 1 lakh in Uttarakhand than for one lakh of tourists to spend one rupee, each!
(Hugh & Colleen Gantzer hold the National Lifetime Achievement Award for Tourism among other National and International awards. Their credits include over 52 halfhour documentaries on national TV under their joint names, 26 published books in 6 genres, and over 1,500 firstperson articles, about every Indian state, UT and 34 other countries. Hugh was a Commander in the Indian Navy and the Judge Advocate, Southern Naval Command. Colleen is the only travel writer who was a member of the Travel Agents Association of India.)