Taxis go off roads in Kullu district, tourists worst hit
Thousands of tourists hoping to catch picturesque glimpses of Manali and other spots were left stranded on Tuesday, as taxi operators across the district went on an indefinite strike.
As many as 2,000 taxi operators remained off roads and held a protest against the National Green Tribunal (NGT) order restricting the number of taxis visiting the Rohtang Pass, and imposition of heavy cess.
The order had restricted the number of taxis visiting the Rohtang Pass to 1,000. Besides, the tribunal has ordered environment protection charges at Rs 1,000 from petrol vehicles, Rs 2,500 from diesel vehicles and Rs 5,000 from vehicles having capacity of more than six people.
Tourists in Manali and other parts of the district mostly rely on taxi operators to reach Gulaba, Hidimba Temple, Kothi, Solang Valley, Vashisht temple and Marhi, besides the Rohtang Pass, which is yet to be opened to traffic.
Praveen Kumar, a native of Madhya Pradesh, said, "My family's trip has been ruined, as we were hoping to visit higher points of Kullu district, but have been confined to Manali town."
Many other tourists lamented that they had no option but to take strolls in the town in absence of taxis to take them to the higher reaches of Manali.
When contacted, Manali sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) Jyoti Rana said, "The administration is bound to implement the tribunal's direction. If any person disobeys the order, action will be taken accordingly."
Hoteliers, a worried lot
The strike has left hoteliers in a tizzy, as it could lead to a sharp decline in the tourist arrivals in the upcoming summer vacation.
Naiter, manager of Hotel Yak in Manali town, said due to the strike, several guests hailing from Maharashtra, Gujarat and other far-off states had checked out on Tuesday, much before their scheduled return.
Sources told HT that due to non-availability of taxis, labourers were fleecing tourists to carry luggage between hotels and bus stand and vice-versa, which may leave a bad taste in the tourists' mouth.