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‘Business has been down’: Transporters in Kashmir want Amarnath pilgrims to come in greater numbers

Two days after seven Amarnath Yatra pilgrims died after the bus they were traveling in was attacked in South Kashmir, the carriers in the valley are worried about the business.

At the taxi stand at the tourist reception center in Srinagar on Wednesday, dozens of vehicles awaited passengers traveling to Jammu. However, few vehicles came to Jammu foot.

Images of a damaged passenger taxi in Monday’s attack also caused anxiety in Jammu drivers. “We are careful not to go to Kashmir,” said a taxi driver who was on the phone Jammu.

“In Kashmir, you never know when things get worse. It’s better to be sure.” At the Srinagar taxi station, business has been slow over the past year, following the murder of Hizbul commander Mujahideen Burhan Wani July 8, 2016, resulted in months of holidays and curfews.

“The business has been down,” said Javaid, a driver. “Yatris The deaths will not be a problem, we have problems. We are going with full capacity [in Jammu], but we are far away during the return.In Kashmir, there is not much work.”
Tuesday progressively grew as news of the attack spread, transporters, tour operators and other people involved in the tourism industry were the first to organize protests. They gathered outside the Enclave Press in Lal Chowk, in the heart of Srinagar, with banners condemning the “brutal attack”, expressing their solidarity to the afflicted.

The killings were against “Kashmir’s syncretic culture,” they said, “Yatris are our customers.”

Ghulam Nabi, president of the Association of touristic taxi operators, said that drivers traveling outside the valley, Jammu and other places, is not afraid of the negative reaction. But the attack on pilgrims could mean fewer guests.

“Some people have the heart to go on pilgrimage in God’s way, many do not,” he said. “They think it’s best to carry out next year.”

According to Nabi, there are about 30,000 taxis throughout the Kashmir valley. They are good for business during the summer months, when the pilgrimage is completed and tourism is at its peak. “By 2016, we had done a good deal in the months before July,” Nabi said.

The thinning of the tourist crowd resulted in rates now. “This year, companies make up 10% of what they were,” Nabi said. “Where we have earned Rs 2,000 per trip, drivers are Rs 1300 to Rs 1,500. For a passenger, there are 10 taxis desperate to make money.”

Bashir Matta, who runs the Welfare Bearers Association, said Valley Carriers wanted pilgrims to come in large numbers.

“Local people win because of them,” he said. “We hope that the pilgrims’ entrances will not be affected, and we have taken two months of activity.”

Referring to the attack, Matta said that this could happen in any corner of India. “Who knows what the agency was behind,” Matta said. “Why did the Kashmiris want the situation to become bad and affect us?”

He added that the residents of the valley “did not want the peace that they bother” during the annual pilgrimage.

The malaise 2016 has reduced the influx of tourists, the numbers were reduced in more of 55% with respect to the previous year. “In 2016, the number of visitors who came to the valley, stood at 6.23,932 of which 2.20,490 Yatris Amatath,” said a report in Greater Kashmir. But now, things could get worse.