Dehradun: In a move that may go a long way in boosting tourist flow to Uttarkashi, the Centre has asked the Uttarakhand government to prepare an action plan to free parts of Gangotri area, including the Harsil town along the India-China border, from the inner line permit regime.
Owing to its location along the international boundary, tourists need inner line permit to go the area. Also, the foreign tourists cannot stay overnight in the military cantonment area in Harsil.
Inner line permit system calls for formal permission from union home ministry as ITBP is the controlling authority of these areas for their proximity with Indo-China border.
As per the sources, the Centre in a recent communication to the state government and Uttarakashi district administration has asked the latter to prepare a plan to free the Harsil meadows, Bagori village close to Gangotri and Mukhba, from the protected regime for strategic reasons. Mukhba is the alternate seat of Goddess Ganga when the idol of the deity is brought down from Gangotri, which is rendered inaccessible during winters.
The communication comes days after state tourism minister, Satpal Maharaj, wrote a letter to the Centre to free these areas from the protective regime, especially for the foreign tourists. At present, the tourists have to secure an inner line permit from the Union ministry of home affairs (MHA) as the area is under the control of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP).
In his letter, copies of which were marked to the MHA and the Union tourism ministry, Maharaj cited the example of Sangla valley at Kinnaur in Himachal Pradesh that is situated barely 40 kilomters from Indo-China border but was freed from the inner line permit rule. He said the three locations in Uttarakhand were located more than 100 kilometers from the international border.
“Apart from these three areas near the Gangotri, even Nelong valley that was rendered a no man’s land after 1960 Indo-China war but opened for Indians two years ago needs to be freed from the inner line permit regime. This will give a big push to foreign tourist inflow. Quashing of the protective regime will help in developing a mega tourism hub in the state,” Maharaj said.
The minister said that once the inner line permit system was lifted, the state tourism department would develop 200 houses in Mukhba village as home stays that will directly help the village economy.
“I will soon meet Union home minister Rajnath Singh and tourism minister Mahesh Sharma to discuss the issue and urge them to expedite lifting of the inner line permit norms from Gangotri area and Nelong Valley,” he added.
This is not the first time that the state government has sought lifting of the protective regime from the area. A request to this effect was sent to the Centre by the previous Congress government in 2016 but no action was taken despite an assurance by Union MoS for Home affairs Kiren Rijiju.
Harsil town, situated at an altitude of 2,620 meters in Uttarkashi, is surrounded by snow-capped mountains and remains a favourite among mountaineers and trekkers. The area turned into a tourist hotspot after a major portion of 1985-blockbuster Ram Teri Ganga Maili was shot here.
The town was put under the restricted areas list while Nelong valley was sealed by the government after the 1962 Sino-Indian war.