Troubles Of Truck Tourism
Jatinder Kanwar (cover story)
Lakhs of pilgrims from entire north India visit Himachal every year to pay obeisance at various shaktipeeths located in this hilly state. Most of these visitors hail from neighbouring state Punjab. Traveling in tempos, traveler, trucks, two wheelers and other unsafe vehicles, these tourists are proving to be a trouble for this hilly state rather than boosting tourism sector here. Not only this, the religious tourists also leave behind a trail of huge piles of garbage as free langar services are established en route. Traveling in unsafe vehicles is the main reason behind most of the accidents especially in Una district. There are numerous problems associated with huge inflow of pilgrims during navratras. The state has no plan to check such offenders at entry points and they are proving to be a trouble for the state.
Dangerous Figures in Una District
* 57 killed, 436 injured in 239 accidents in 2012
* 63 killed, 462 injured in 239 accidents in 2013
* 82 killed, 391 injured in 259 accidents in 2014
* 101 killed, 401 injured in 255 accidents in 2015
* 53 killed, 453 injured 292 accidents in 2016
* 116 killed, 359 injured in 190 accidents until August 2017
No Boost To Tourism
In spite of lakhs of religious tourists visiting Himachal, they don’t contribute much to boost economy in this hill state. It has been observed during navratras when Himachal witnesses a beeline of tourist vehicles. However, devotees visiting shaktipeeths located at Chintpurni, Naina Devi, Chamunda, Brajeshwari, Jwalamukhi temples provide good support to the business community at these places. Devotees traveling in unsafe vehicles depend upon langar services for meals and hesitate to purchase anything from local markets especially during navratras.
Langar Services Spreading Garbage
The organisations holding free langar services for devotees also flout norms as they have scant care for swacchta abhiyan. Notably, 200 organisations organise lanagar service during navratras in and around Chintpurni Temple but they don’t care for cleanliness. Heaps of garbage can be seen after these langaras come to a finish as organisation don’t feel it necessary to maintain cleanliness in the area. These langar services are organised from Chintpurni Temple up to Punjab border.
Flouting Traffic Norms
Pilgrims from other states visiting Himachal flout traffic norms with impunity in the name of religious visit. Two wheeler drivers are without helmet whereas large number of visitors travel in unsafe double-decker trucks and trolleys. Though police initiates action against erring drivers and vehicle drivers yet most of the time religious tourists flout norms.
Parking Woes During Navratras
A beeline of tourist vehicles during various melas at religious destinations also pose parking problems. One can see long traffic jams on 25 kilometre stretch from Mubarikpur to Chintpurni in Una district. And at times it becomes a challenge to even shift seriously ill patients to hospitals.
Lakhs of pilgrims travel in unsafe vehicles to visit Chinpurni Temple, Baba Badbhag Singh, Peernigah Temple in Una district, Baba Balak Nath at Deot Sidh in Hamirpur district, Jwalamukhi Temple, Brajeshwari Temple and Chamunda Temple in Kangra district besides Naina Devi Temple in Bilaspur district. A large number of road accidents occur in which innocent persons are killed but there is no end to this unsafe religious pilgrimage that starts from Punjab and culminates in Himachal. The administration initiates strict action sometimes but there is no permanent solution to pilgrims visiting in double and triple-decker unsafe vehicles.
‘Will Discuss with SPs of Border Districts of Punjab’
Himachal This Week’s Jatinder Kanwar also talked to Una Superintendent of Police Sanjeev Gandhi on initiatives to check unsafe religious pilgrimage undertaken by devotees from neighbouring Punjab state. Una district is considered gateway to various religious places located in Himachal. Following are the excerpts of the interview:
HTW: What steps are being taken to check hooliganism by pilgrims?
Sanjeev Gandhi: Special teams have been constituted to check hooliganism by pilgrims. Night patrolling is also undertaken to avoid any such incident. Instructions are also given to pilgrims at entry points in the district. Action is taken against any such person indulging in hooliganism and flouting traffic norms
HTW: What are challenges before police to streamline huge rush of pilgrims in Una district?
Sanjeev Gandhi: A special campaign would be launched to streamline rush of tourists. Though, it is a big challenge but efforts will be put in to make it successful.
HTW: Is there any move to check entry of vehicles ferrying pilgrims in trucks?
Sanjeev Gandhi: A special drive has been launched to check pilgrims traveling in trucks besides creating awareness among people. The process to suspend driving licenses of drivers ferrying pilgrims in tempo trolley and double-decker trucks. As it is an inter-state matter, it would be discussed with Superintendents of Police of bordering districts of Punjab to restrict these vehicles there only besides raising the issue at DGP level.
HTW: How would you check frequent traffic jams during navratras?
Sanjeev Gandhi: Traffic jams are a problem during navratras but a team would be constituted to tackle the issue. Instructions are also given to cops on such occasions so that people don’t face any problem.
* As it is an inter-state matter, it would be discussed with Superintendents of Police of bordering districts of Punjab to restrict these vehicles there only besides raising the issue at DGP level
-Sanjeev Gandhi, Supertendent of Police, Una
No Policy To Control Tourists
* Tourism contributing 7.82% in Himachal’s GDP
* Tourism generates 5.59% employment
* 48% tourist visit only religious places in Himachal
* 51% occupancy by tourists in Una district
Himachal has no policy to control tourists though tourism and eco-tourism policies are in place. Under this, 105 places have been identified where projects are to be established besides developing 36 underdeveloped areas. Tourism policy has also been associated with employment generation as 1600 persons have been registered under Home Stay scheme in Himachal.
There is no mention of truck tourism in Transport and Tourism policies of this hilly state. Transport Nagar finds a mention in these policies. There has been no plan in the pipeline to develop truck tourism that is developing in foreign countries.
Nearly 48% of the total tourists are religious tourists who visit various shaktipeeths located in this hilly state. Figure of religious tourists is estimated to be 86 lakh yearly who visit Bilaspur, Hamirpur, Kangra, Una, Chamba, Mandi and Kullu districts.
Law & Order Problem
The issue of tourists traveling in trucks and tempos during navratras has also been raised in assembly. Most of the accidents involve such vehicles. Directions were issued to the police to check such vehicles and book drivers for traffic violations at entry points. However, a complete check was not implemented owing to religious beliefs. Triple riding and without helmet driving on motor cycles by devotees from Punjab traveling to Manikaran, Deotsidh and Baba Badbhag Singh is a common sight but there is no policy to check such offenders.