Kashmir's famous hillock shrine of 15th century saint Hamza Makhdum, once frequented by former prime minister Indira Gandhi, was connected through a ropeway service on Monday-a first such attempt to use the cable car as an urban mode of transportation.
The 550-metre long ropeway service, constructed by the Jammu and Kaashmir Cable Car Corporation with Kolkata-based Ropeway and Resorts Pvt Ltd, was inaugurated by state rural and Panchayati Raj minister Ali Muhammad Sagar and state tourism minister Ghulam Ahmad Mir.
The capsule service will connect the shrine of Mukhdoom Sahib, located at the hillock of Kohi Maran in the city's congested downtown localities, to Kathi Darwaza at the Srinagar's largest graveyard Malkah.
"The ropeway will provide an alternative mode of transportation to the weak, physically challenged and infirm to pay obeisance at the shrine," said Sagar.
The shrine, with 142 stairs on either side, is revered by both Muslims and Hindus.
In 1984, Gandhi, just days before she was assassinated, visited the shrine to pay her last obeisance. The cable car service has come at the cost of `6.50 crore and has eight cabins.
"It works on the zig-zag model unlike the one at Gulmarg Gandola. By the time four cars park at the receiving station, four would make a stop at the top," said cable-car engineer Sumair Qureshi.
The four-seat capsule will ferry 275 passengers per hour at a speed of three metres per second. "A ride at the full speed is of two and a half minutes duration," said Qureshi.
Tourism minister Mir sees the cable car as a potential service to attract tourists to the downtown areas, which has borne the brunt of two decades of militancy.
"The cable service will bring the area on the tourist map and will create employment," said Mir. However, many devotees and locals are not enthusiastic about the cable-car.
"People would take the flight of the staircase as the way of paying obeisance. The cable-car may be used by tourists, but locals, who have faith in the shrine, will prefer the stairs only," said Ali Muhammad, a devotee.
Unhappy after the ride, Tariq Ahmad Bhat, a filmmaker, said, "The Gulmarg Gondola being a wonderful experience, I was anticipating a ride of the same level in the heart of Srinagar city with a wonderful topographical landscape. But it has not taken me on an amazing experience," said Bhat.
He said the cable car fails to take the rider to the famous points of the city. "This 'urban gondola' is not the showcasing of progressed cable technology, but one feels unsafe in the locally made cabin. The planners and politicians seem lacking the holistic understanding of the area," he added.
Many people also did not like the idea of riding over the graves of the biggest graveyard of the city.