Its becoming a classic case of the tussle between the progress that man has to make with machines, and its effect on those whose livelihood the machines replace.
The two sides of the story from GreaterKashmir
The Mazdoor Union Gulmarg-Tangmarg—an amalgam comprising nearly 3600 ponywalls, laborers and guides maintain that the construction of Gondola will hit their livelihood and accused the Government of failing to compensate them for the losses due to running of the first two phases of the world highest ropeway for past over one decade.
When the first phase of Gondola was commissioned upto Kongdoori in 1998, it was strongly opposed by the ponywalls and guides. “We had reached an agreement with the authorities that the Gondola will be operated only during winter and only used to ferry skiers to the Kongdoori slopes. Ironically, the Gondola was used for round the year and opened for tourists as well drastically hitting our livelihood,” Bashir Ahmad Mir, the president of Mazdoor Union Gulmarg-Tangmarg told Greater Kashmir.
Mir said following an agitation, the authorities had promised to pay the Union a share of 15 percent of the Gondola’s earnings. “However, the successive regimes resorted to dilly-dallying tactics and constructed second phase of Gondola up to Apharwath adding insult to our injury. We had launched an agitation but it was muzzled by use for force,” Mir said. The ponywallas and guides maintain that they somehow managed to meet their two ends by ferrying and guiding tourists to the Mary Shoulder hills and its adjoining areas. “The construction of a lift from Kongdoori to Mary Shoulder will push us on the verge of starvation. It seems the Government is bent upon to render us jobless.”
The Minister of Tourism, Nawang Ringzin Jora, said the Government will not succumb to the “blackmailing tactics” of the ponywallas and guides. “Government has been supporting all sections of people including ponywallas and guides in Gulmarg. After construction of Gondola, the affected ponywallas and guides were provided shops and kiosks in Kongdoori. If they have some problem they can’t take whole Gulmarg hostage. We want to make it clear that the Gondola will continue to function and nobody will be allowed to dictate terms to the Government,” Jora told Greater Kashmir.
However, he maintained that Government is committed to resolve the reasonable demands of people.
The Managing Director of Jammu and Kashmir Cable Car Corporation (JKCCC), Talat Pervez, said the demands of the Union have been forwarded to the Government.
EFFECT ON FUTURE OF GULMARG
A former tourism official who has served in Gulmarg said the row between the Government and the ponywallas will affect the tourism inflow to the Gulmarg. “It will send harm the image of the Valley as foreign and professional skiers throng the ski-resort during the winter.” he said.
“After the recent unrest in the Valley, Winter is the only hope for making up for our losses. The tourists have made advance bookings with us on the eve of Christmas and New Year. The matter should be resolved at the earliest in the best interest of tourism in the Valley,” said a hotelier at Gulmarg.
The fact remains that a world class Gondola is the need in Gulmarg. Its long overdue. Gulmarg needs to be able to leverage its slopes to legitimately come on the ski map of the world (If Ford was so focussed on what would happen to the livelihood of the horse cart owners, model T would have never seen the light of the day). The ponywallas should rather focus on developing more local destinations where they can ferry an even increasing rush of visitors who would come to Gulmarg, attracted by the its world class slopes, and a promise of being hauled up the heights in a gondola that works. In all probability, more tourists on new day treks would eventually more than make up for the loss in revenue from the Gondola route.