Restricted area clause affects tourism in Uttarkashi district

The archaic Inner Line and restricted areas clause that was imposed in the region above Harsil and Nelong Valley in Uttarkashi district following the Chinese aggression in 1962 is affecting Uttarakhand tourism. At the same time, it is benefiting neighbouring Himachal Pradesh, say local businessmen.The restricted area clause does not define clearly as where the tourists, especially foreigners, can venture into leading a lot of inconvenience to the administration and the tourists.The Inner Line permit is required above the Harsil region but there is no check post established to stop tourists, especially foreigners, going to the region right up to Gangotri. Foreigners are seen staying overnight at Dharali, Bharon Ghati and other destinations right up to Gangotri.Indian tourists have to obtain a permit for the Nelong valley, which is completely out of bounds for foreign tourists. Foreigners due to such an ambiguity prefer Himachal Pradesh instead which allows an easy access to its tourist spots on the border with China.An Inner Line Border Permit required for trekking is easily provided in Himachal Pradesh to trekkers who want to walk through from Chitkul village in Himachal to Harsil while they find it difficult to obtain the permit from Uttarkashi for the same trek, said Tilak Soni, an adventure tour operator running a firm Where Eagles Dare.The presence of Gangotri National Park means the Indian tourists have to apply for special wildlife permit apart from inner line security permit to visit Nelong Valley. Gangotri National Park officials do provide access to the area till 23 km beyond the first recognised check post in the Nelong valley, which does not serve the purpose as they are asked to return the same day which is not possible in such a terrain.Lokendar Bisht, BJP state member of the working committee, said he had met the Union State Minister for Home Kiran Rijjiu during his visit to Uttarkashi and raised the issue.Rijiju had asked the district administration to send a proposal in this regard via state government. Uttarkashi District Magistrate Ashok Kumar Pandey said the process of seeking an inner line permit for the Nelong valley should be streamlined and converted into a single-window system as tourists have to seek permission from various departments.Pandey recommended the removal of the inner line permit clause from Harsil Market and 50 km area around it right up to Wilson Cottage.

Source: The Tribune, Chandigarh

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