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.
Chandigarh Chandigarh administrator Banwarilal Purohit on Wednesday gave in-principle approval for a synthetic running track at Sukhna Lake. UT adviser Dharam Pal, said, “The Chandigarh Heritage Conservation Committee had earlier given its go-ahead for the proposal. Next, the detailed plan and cost estimates will be prepared; and then, tenders will be floated for the project.” A UT official said the proposed track is part of the administration's efforts to give Sukhna Lake a major facelift.
The National Highway Authority of India has approved two over-bridges, which are likely to reduce travel time between Kalka and Zirakpur and alleviate traffic jams on the stretch by next year. NHAI has already floated tenders for the 60-m wide over-bridges, which will be constructed at a cost of ₹50 crore. It has invited bids for the “construction and site improvement of the four-lane national highway (NH-22) on the Zirakpur-Parwanoo junction.”
Fifteen students had a narrow escape after their school bus skidded into a waterlogged open drain in Daulat Singhwala village in Phabat area of Zirakpur. The bus, which was ferrying students of Blue Bird High School, Sector 16, Panchkula, was making way for another school bus when it skidded into the overflowing drain. The bus tilted in the drain, but passersby and parents were able to rescue the children through the driver's window.
Tricity residents woke up to heavy rainfall for the second time this month on Wednesday. Three people went missing after a taxi, shuttling two commuters, was swept away in a flashflood in the Patiala-Ki-Rao rivulet as the driver attempted to cross the causeway in Tanda Village near Nayagaon. The owner of the vehicle, Rakesh Kumar told the police that Gaurav had called him saying two people, travelling to Baddi, had booked his cab.
Chandigarh received 97mm rainfall between 6am and 8.30am, the heaviest rain in July since 2017, as per the India Meteorological Department. It received another 0.9mm of rainfall during the day. The maximum precipitation till 8.30am was recorded at the Sector 39 observatory (97mm), 49.2mm rain was recorded at the airport observatory, 77.5mm rain in Panchkula and 74.5 mm rain in Mohali.