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Unprepared Hosts

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It seems that the process of elections in Uttarakhand has taken its toll on the government’s preparations for the coming Yatra and Tourism Season. There are a distressing number of reports coming in of the lack of preparedness, damaged infrastructure owing to heavy snowfall in the higher reaches, incomplete road works, continuing landslides, etc. which do not augur well for successful conduct of this important sector of the state’s economy. Things are probably being made worse by the lack of government supervision as the leading lights of the ruling party continue to campaign in other states.
Every year, the number of pilgrims and tourists continues to increase. This requires a minimum expansion in the infrastructure and services just to keep up. The vagaries of the weather, with extreme events occurring more often, are more frequent. At many places, the effort to create infrastructure comes up against environmental constraints. This creates the added complication of increased traffic up to a point and then more troublesome bottlenecks. Planning and allocation of funds have not kept pace with the requirements, which eventually results in inconvenience to all concerned.
One of the solutions lies in diversifying the market and increasing the number of destinations. A large number of places in the hills, as well as potential activities, remain unexplored and undeveloped. The idea to revive the traditional trek to the Char Dhams was proposed over a decade and a half ago, but is being considered with the required seriousness only now. With the usual pace at which government functions, the project will probably see fruition another decade from now. Also, the skewed priorities of the past have ensured that a lot of infrastructure remains unutilised. Agencies such as the GMVN and KMVN, which should be run by professional managers, are in the charge of jack-of-all-trades bureaucrats, who usually react after the event. Marketing of the state’s many splendours also needs to be in the hands of professionals and brand managers. Instead, these all-important tasks are also being done by tenured government servants, who lack motivation and expertise. There is almost no involvement of the major private sector stake-holders. The only engagement with them is when self-serving deals are to be made. Seminars are held often enough but the recommendations are forgotten almost immediately.
The confusion manifests itself on the ground, with tourists spending their valuable time caught up in traffic jams. The response to emergency situations is hampered by lack of training, equipment, first-responders and poor planning. So, as the state enters yet another Summer, one can only hope and pray for the best.