Uttarakhand: Ban on adventure sports puts 3-4 lakh jobs at stake

Rishikesh (Uttarakhand): The June 21 order of the Uttarakhand High Court, banning all adventure sports and games in the state, is likely to render more than three lakh persons jobless.

The High Court ban applies to all water sports, paragliding and river rafting. The court said that all these activities will remain banned till a policy to regulate them is put in place by the government.

It is already two weeks since the ban. If it continues, about 3 lakh persons, directly or indirectly associated with adventure sports business in the state, will be left without work. Of these, around 20,000 are directly employed in the business.

Handful of tourists

Shivpuri, a river rafting site 20 kilometres from Rishikesh, draws up to 8,000 tourists every day, barring the rainy season, when there is a ban on river rafting. But now, only a handful of tourists, unaware of the ban, are reaching the place and they too have to return disappointed.

Govind Singh Negi, who is into the business for the last fifteen years, said that he was able to make around Rs 40,000 per month and now his only source of livelihood is lost.

‘Hurtful to sentiments’

Adventure sports

Hariom Kashyap, on whose plea the HC has imposed the ban, told Dainik Bhaskar that the petition was filed in 2014 and was related to the camps that were set up on the banks of the Ganges. Kashyap said that tourists were served meat and liquor by the river rafting tour operators, and plastic water bottles provided to them were thrown into the river. This was polluting the river and hurting the sentiments of crores of people, Kashyap added.

Won’t tolerate degeneration: HC

The High Court said that it will not tolerate this type of ‘degeneration’ in the name of tourism. A member of the Rishikesh Water Police told Bhaskar that young tourists can be seen consuming liquor on the banks of the Gangesall through the day. Some even enter the river drunk to take a dip. This puts their lives at risk. A police officer said that about 3 to 4 persons die every week here. It takes 5-6 days to recover one dead body.

Govt also culpable

Kalyan Singh, associated with the business, said that the government has not provided any facilities for the tourists. Tourists have to wear special gear for river rafting but there are no changing rooms at the starting and the end points. Inadequate parking arrangements lead to severe jams during the tourist season in Shivpuri.

Want to promote adventure tourism: Govt

Meanwhile, Devendra Dutt, president of ‘Uttarakhand Finest Outdoor’ – an organisation of tourist operators – said that a delegation has met Tourism Minister Satpal Maharaj, who assured that the government will submit its response to the Court.

Tourism secretary Dilip Javalkar said that the government wants to promote adventure tourism but also wants to take strict action on the issues raised by the court. He added that the court issued the ban order because they were not able to present a rule book for adventure sports operations for some reason. “But we are readying the documents and within a few days we will present them in the court,” he added.

(Story: Ravi Shrivastava)