As tourism sector faces worst slump, Jammu and Kashmir decides to reopen parks, gardens

Restaurant owners’ association approaches High Court for relief

July 07, 2020 09:31 pm | Updated 09:31 pm IST - Srinagar

Students display placards to create awareness among the masses to follow procedures for controlling the spread of novel coronavirus, in Srinagar, Monday, July 6, 2020.

Students display placards to create awareness among the masses to follow procedures for controlling the spread of novel coronavirus, in Srinagar, Monday, July 6, 2020.

With the Jammu and Kashmir tourism sector facing an unprecedented slump due to a 10-month closure, the administration on Tuesday decided to re-open parks and gardens to revive the sector.

“All the public parks and gardens shall re-open from tomorrow [Wednesday]. Wearing masks has been made mandatory. I appeal to people to take all precautions including using sanitisers and maintaining social distancing,” Advisor to the Lieutenant Governor, Baseer Ahmad Khan, said.

The tourism business is hit first due to the six months of closure in the wake of the revocation of J&K’s special status in August and then the lockdown from March 20.

Loss of lakhs of jobs

According to a survey conducted by the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), the two factors have resulted in the loss of lakhs of jobs and the borrowers of financial institutions have lost capacity to fulfil their commitments.

Also read: Coronavirus India lockdown Day 105 updates

“The tourism sector is in a shambles. Artisans and weavers are jobless. The losses are more than ₹1,056 crore. It was multiplied further by the pandemic,” a KCCI spokesman said.

Government spokesman Rohit Kansal said, “J&K is to reopen for tourism soon. The government will issue detailed guidelines and standard operating procedures shortly.”

Sheikh Feroz, who heads a restaurant owners association in Srinagar, has approached the High Court for relief.

“On account of the pandemic, borrowers are not in a position to pay the due instalments. We are seeking a relief in the nature of not charging interest on all term loans for the period affected due to natural calamity in 2014, disturbances of 2016 and 2019 and that of the pandemic,” Mr. Feroz told The Hindu .

He said none of the business houses are even eligible for the Centre’s schemes announced in the wake of COVID-19. “Any scheme granting more loans will only deepen our debt cycle.”

The court, while admitting the petition last week, has sent notices to the Union Territory (UT) and the Centre for response.

Rising COVID-19 cases

Meanwhile, 141 people died due to the novel coronavirus in J&K, as 8,675 have been infected so far. On an average, over 100 cases have been reported on a daily basis this month.

Rajeev Rai Bhatnagar, Advisor to the Lt. Governor, has directed officials “to launch an aggressive testing campaign in red zone areas and for co-morbid persons”.

“Encourage the local population to visit flu clinics and fever clinics in case of any symptoms. The officials should scale up on-spot sample collection in the red zones besides increasing the contact tracing of positive cases,” Mr. Bhatnagar said.

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