Locals in Tourist Destination Threatened

Residents of Doodhpathri, Kashmir face poverty and displacement due to contradictory govt. policies. Jammu and Kashmir is a state renowned for its natural beauty. Be it for the lush green forests, still lakes or magnificent snow capped mountains, tourists have always found it an exciting destination. Though its economy is predominantly dependent on agriculture and allied activities, tourism has grown tremendously in the region, and shall continue to do so as violence in Jammu and Kashmir decreases. Doodhpathri, located 42 kilometres away from Srinagar, was added to the tourism map of the state in 2006. Since then, the ‘Valley of Milk’ has seen an inflow of travellers, giving a much needed boost to its financially disadvantaged inhabitants. The people of Doodhpathri have their roots firmly dug into its ground. For generations, their families have lived in the same region, rearing sheep and cattle for a living. When their homeland became a tourist destination in 2006, they were encouraged by the Governor Narinder Nath Vohra and Chief Minister Omar Abdullah to give up their cattle herder jobs and cater to the new tourists by setting up tea and snack stalls in the hills. The Doodhpathri inhabitants took their advice, and found their new form of making a living very beneficial. In recent years, the Doodhpathri Development Authority has taken up the task of setting up stalls of its own. These have better infrastructure and facilities as compared to the others. However, the government institution, instead of employing locals to manage them, is calling in outsiders to run the stalls. The locals feel threatened by this, and claim that the DDA is forcing them to shut down their shops and leave Doodhpathri. Not only will this adversely affect their already financially weak situation, but they also face an uncertain future of having to vacate what has been their home for hundreds of years. The fact that it is a government institution that is causing problems only makes it harder to find a solution. Our Community Correspondent Sajad Rasool tells Video Volunteers, “The 200 households of Doodhpathri should have all the rights of establishment in the area. They have lived here for generations, and must be the beneficiaries of tourism. Otherwise, these poor families face mass migration. This shall also affect the well being of cattle in the area.” - Rajyashri Goody

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