After the videos and photographs of tourists defying the Covid norms at popular tourist spots in Dehradun and Nainital districts elicited the attention of the central government upto Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the district magistrates in Uttarakhand claimed to have geared up to tackle such issues in the tourist destinations in their respective districts. Since the State Government provided relaxation in Covid-19 restrictions, the inflow of tourists from other states has increased manifold.
Though this influx has delighted the locals associated with the tourism industry, others are concerned that the lack of Covid appropriate behaviour in tourist destinations can turn out to be an open invitation to the probable third wave of Covid-19. Apart from the Uttarakhand High Court which had asked the state government some days ago to consider restricting tourism on weekends, the Central government too has expressed concern at the blatant violation of Covid appropriate behaviour in the name of tourism.
In Uttarakhand, the number of tourists had started rising over a week ago but the authorities in various districts decided to take effective measures only after the photographs and video of tourists flouting Covid norms in Kempty Falls, Mussoorie and Nainital went viral on social media platforms. After facing nationwide flak, the district magistrate of Tehri, Eva Shrivastava took the decision of limiting the number of tourists in Kempty Falls to 50 visitors who will be allowed to stay there only for half an hour. Uphill, the number of tourists arriving in Nainital can be estimated from the fact that the authorities have asked over 5,000 tourists to turn back from Nainital city due to lack of parking space and tourists' failure to provide valid RT-PCR negative reports. According to the Nainital district magistrate, Dhiraaj Singh Garbiyal, the administration has now decided to completely prohibit the entry of two-wheelers into the main city on the weekends.
"The tourists will be stopped at the distance of 10 kilometres away from the city and will be brought inside the city through shuttle services. The authorities have already started working on it from Friday," said Garbiyal. He also said that four-wheelers will be stopped outside the city after the occupancy of 75 per cent parking space is filled in the city. "We are also thinking about stopping the vehicles outside the city when parking space is 50 per cent occupied but it will depend on the bookings and arrival of tourists this weekend," said Garbiyal.
He also informed that the administration has appealed to the hotel association to avoid booking their hotels fully to avoid overcrowding. According to Garbiyal, the administration has ensured that people associated with the tourism industry like hoteliers and associated employees, local transport operators and local shopkeepers are all vaccinated against Covid disease as they mostly interact directly with the tourists. Besides this, he added that extra force has been deployed in all the major locations to ensure tourists abide by Covid norms.
Many visitors were also observed defying Covid norms in tourist spots in Dehradun district like Sahastradhara and Mussoorie but the DM Ashish Kumar Srivastava said that the administration is taking all the possible measures to ensure the tourists follow Covid guidelines. "I have directed various district officials like sub divisional magistrates (SDMs) and police to take action against those who fail to adhere with Covid guidelines.
Authorities are imposing penalties and taking action against the offenders in all the primary tourist locations like Sahastradhara, Mussoorie and Rishikesh," informed Srivastava. He said that awareness campaigns are being conducted in tourist spots to remind and encourage people to be cautious of Covid contagion. It is pertinent to mention here that these developments come after blatant violation of Covid norms and even decency have been observed at tourist spots in Dehradun with people crowding sans masks and even being roughed up for smoking hookahs at Har Ki Paidi have elicited attention and concern within one week.