Srinagar, July 26: Shikara owners in Dal Lake ignore safety norms while ferrying hundreds of tourists every day hence jeopardizing the lives of many.
According to data available with Rising Kashmir, there are currently 4881 shikaras in Dal Lake, with only a few hundred having safety jackets available with them. Even those few ignore the norms and do not use life-saving jackets while taking to tourists for a ride.
The shikhara owners said that the government promisedthat safety jackets would be provided to them. They stated that although hundreds of jackets were provided, unfortunately not all the Shikaras were provided with the safety jackets.
According to eyewitnesses "None of the riders are seen wearing a life jacket while taking a ride at Dal-lake, which poses a serious threat to their safety."
"The shikhara owners, as well as authorities, are watching for some tragedy to happen, and after that, they will provide safety gear to people," said local tourist Mohammad Shafi of Pulwama.
He stated that most Kashmiris know how to swim, but tourists do not, and that ‘if God forbid any tourist drowns, this will impact the livelihood of thousands of Shikara owners and will send a wrong impression among visitors.’
The Shikaras are a source of income for thousands of people in Dal Lake. They should take all the precautions to prevent tourists as well as butter.
According to a Shikara owner, the government provided single safety jackets only to a few of them, while a huge number of Shikaras were not provided with safety jackets.
"We never wanted there to be any incidents with people on rides, and everyone is well aware of how much we have suffered in the last many years. We cannot afford safety jackets, "said Ghulam Mohammad, a Shikara owner.
Deepak Bhatia, a non-local tourist, told Rising Kashmir that while boarding a shikhara, they were not given any instruction nor were asked to wear safety jackets.
"We witnessed a Shikara sink in Dal Lake during a political rally early this year." "Their fate was good that their boat didn't sink in the middle," said Bashir Ahmad, a local visitor.
He said the concerned department should not allow any Shikara owners to board tourists without wearing life jackets.
"I have only been given one life jacket by the government, while I usually have around 2-4 people in a boat. There should be around 2-3 life jackets available for every boat, which unfortunately aren't available,” said Mohammad Abbas, a shikara owner.
We will not hesitate to tell people to wear life jackets when we have sufficient life jackets available. He added that we can't ask an individual to wear a jacket when we have three or four people on board, he added.
Shikara Association President of Jammu and Kashmir, Wali Mohammad, said authorities hadn't provided safety jackets to every Shikara owner.
He said that jackets were issued in fewer numbers. "The authorities made several promises to us, but none of them has been fulfilled by them."
He continued that the "logo" of the tourism department is this Shikara. However, the department has completely forgotten the importance of Shikara. Taking Shikara in the tourist "logo" isn't enough. They should pay some attention to the struggle of the Shikara owners.
Assistant Director of Tourism Kashmir Zeeshan Khan told Rising Kashmir that those who flout the norms will be taken to task. He stated that Shikara owners will not be permitted to ferry passengers without wearing safety vests.
Khan continued that in the coming days, strict action will be taken against those who ferry tourists without life jackets.
To a question, he said that some free jackets were provided to them just to make them aware that they had to follow the same. Neither the government nor the department is supposed to provide them with free safety jackets, Khan said.