Manali-Rohtang pass: Taxi operators now pin hopes on NGT to ease curbs
With taxi operators in Manali getting no relief from the Supreme Court, they are now pinning their hopes on the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to relax its directive limiting the entry of all diesel and petrol run tourist vehicles on the Manali-Rohtang Pass road to a thousand per day till August 14.
The move comes a day after the Supreme Court declined to stay the tribunal's order and asked the affected parties to address their grievances before the tribunal that agreed to hear them on Thursday.
Coming during the height of the tourist season, the indefinite strike by has hit the region's tourism and hospitality industries hard besides affecting the livelihood of hundreds. The strike by about 2,200 taxi drivers entered the ninth day on Wednesday. The state government, which blamed the tribunal for huge revenue losses caused by the move, is also hoping the latter will reverse or at least ease the restrictions.
Meanwhile, buses of the state-run Himachal Road Transport Corp are plying on the 52 km stretch from Manali to Rohtang by paying the environmental cess. On May 5 the tribunal's principal bench permitted only 1,000 vehicles including 400 diesel operated ones to ply on the stretch every day after paying the cess of Rs. 2,500 for diesel and Rs.1,000 for petrol vehicles. The tribunal also fixed a Rs. 5000 fee for vehicles with more than seven seats.
In its earlier directives the tribunal had asked the state government to set up an air ambience monitoring system in Manali besides check posts to regulate traffic flow at Rohtang. It also directed the state government to construct a ropeway from Vashishta to Rohtang.
A government official said tourist arrivals in Manali had slumped by about 40% during the last few days. Ramesh Thakur, a Manali hotelier, said: "In winter heavy snowfall played havoc during the peak tourist season and now in summer National Green Tribunal's restrictions have dealt a crippling blow."
Tour operators and hoteliers were anticipating a heavy influx of visitors this summer in the wake of the massive earthquake in Nepal. "After Nepal was hit by the quake Himachal can expect to gain in tourist inflows," Himachal tourism board vice-chairman Vijay Singh Mankotia had said earlier this month.
Kullu deputy commissioner Rakesh Kanwar, who is monitoring the situation in keeping with the tribunal's instructions, direction, said: "Police personnel and home guards as well as employees of the transport department and the tourism and pollution control boards have been deployed at the Gulaba checkpost set up on stretch from Manali to Rohtang. An executive magistrate is supervising the flow of traffic there."
Only 1,000 tourist vehicles permitted on the stretch from Manali to Rohtang every day. No restrictions on vehicles plying elsewhere on the Manali-Leh highway.
Police, home guards, besides employees of the transport department and pollution control board deployed at the Gulaba checkpost
HRTC plying buses on the 52 km stretch by paying environmental cess
Indefinite strike by taxi operators enters 9th day
Shimla gaining in tourist arrivals at Manali's expense