Srinagar: Minister for Finance, Dr Haseeb Drabu on Friday said the houseboats aren’t just business establishments but part of Kashmiri culture and heritage which needs to be preserved and propagated.
“The Kashmiri houseboats remain important to local economic growth not only in terms of tourism but promoting culture, architecture, heritage and hospitality,” Dr Drabu said at a felicitation function organized here by the Houseboat Owners Association.
The Houseboat Owners Association had organized the thanks-giving function to thank the Government for one-time settlement of the debt waiver scheme for houseboat owners with J&K Bank and the State Bank of India.
The decision to waive off the total outstanding balance of Rs 49.78 crore, announced by the Finance Minister in his budget proposals last year, has come as a major financial and emotional relief to the houseboat owners and taxi drivers.
The Houseboat owners expressed gratitude to the Chief Minister, Ms Mehbooba Mufti and the Finance Minister Dr Haseeb Drabu for implementing the debt-waiver scheme which was hanging fire for the past 20 years.
The Minister said that the Government is doing every bit to provide all the possible relief to the Houseboat owners by providing marketing support to them.
Dr Drabu said the amazingly hand-carved houseboats, moored on the lakeside against a dramatic backdrop of snow-capped Himalayan peaks, have been regarded as a must-see essential of any holiday. He said that it has attracted many prolific writers, artists, musicians to come and complete their works here. “That trend should be revived,” he said.
The Minister said that Government is working for the welfare of Houseboat owners and making them attractive as far as the hospitality services are concerned. He called for launching courses in Hospitality and Protocol in it is which would carter to these kinds of attractive business establishments.
“Better services wouldn’t only prove good for tourists but for the owners of the Houseboats as well,” he said. He said that culturally and aesthetically, tourists’ enjoy their stay in Houseboats than in any other concrete jungle.
“We must pay our gratitude to those who have given us Houseboats and a unique feature to showcase it to the world. The tourists go ecstatic at wooden porches where they relax while gazing at breathtaking mountain vistas and listening to the calls of the fruit and vegetable-sellers from their floating ‘Shikara’ shops,” he said.
Dr Drabu said that Government would provide all possible help to the Houseboat owners in order to turn their services better and professional.
The Minister stressed upon the members to check on the volume of waste generated by the tourist which has deteriorated the quality of water of the lake. He asked them to develop consciousness about the lake first which houses their Houseboats. “Houseboat owners should desist from pumping raw sewerage into the lake every day,” he said. He said that such steps from the Dal dwellers, especially small and big time business establishments would made the lake look even more beautiful.
“We all have to work for saving Dal Lake which is a treasure for Kashmir,” he said. “If we develop consciousness for this water body, time won’t be far away when the untreated sewerage, growth of ferns, duckweed will vanish from the lake, which is killing other aquatic life,” he said.