by Fahd khan
SRINAGAR: The tourist guide license holders in Kashmir are up in the arms against the Tourism department for not allowing them to work in the picturesque Gulmarg at the peak of winter tourism season. Kashmir’s winter wonderland is right now busy with all the hotels occupied even though most of the visitors avoid staying for the night.
These 100-odd guides, mostly educated, haven’t been allowed to operate even after they have valid licenses issued by the Tourism Department in January 2022.
The issue hasn’t been resolved even after Director Tourism, Kashmir had last month assured the license holders through various media outlets leaving one wondrous about the department’s functioning.
It is pertinent to mention here that the department has issued guide licenses to these people, which are valid throughout the valley except for Gulmarg and Pahalgam.
“We have been left jobless during this peak winter season. There is a total of 918 licence holders on record in Gulmarg, among which only 550 are active while the licenses of the rest have expired,” one professional tourist guide said. “The department has been renewing the licenses but many among them are government employees who can’t work as guides.”
He alleged that in certain cases licenses of people who have died have also been renewed by the department.
Sameer Ahmad, another license holder said, “We protested a number of times and made repeated appeals to the government but nothing happened. We all are educated and want to earn our livelihood. We are living in the adjacent areas of Gulmarg and the authorities are asking us to go to Sonamarg and other places which are too far from our residences. It will be very difficult for us; we demand our licenses to be shifted to Gulmarg.”
These guides also allege that the Tourism Department officials permit members of their own families to serve as guides despite their having no licenses.
Javid ul Rehman, Assistant Director of Tourism Gulmarg said, “These are the Valley Guide licence holders who had not applied for guide licenses in Gulmarg.”
When asked about the licenses of the expired people being renewed, the officer said, “This is untrue, we are still looking into this issue that’s being raised, there are already enough licence holders in Gulmarg, and adding more would only add to the mess keeping in view the flow of tourists”.