Over the last two weeks, there had been a “good response” to the first-ever helicopter service to the tourist resorts of Gulmarg and Pahalgam.It had been flagged off by Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed targeting high-end tourists to the Valley.
“Although there are less bookings, at least 40 per cent of the enquiries every day are pertaining to the helicopter service,” said an official of the Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Development Corporation.
These enquiries are mostly related to the helicopter service to Gulmarg and Pahalgam and air safaris over the Dal Lake in Srinagar. The officials confirmed that nearly 50 persons, including the first group of tourists who boarded the inaugural sorties, had enjoyed the chopper service in the Valley so far.Air safaris over the Dal Lake were getting a good response from local residents, the officials said. Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was optimistic about attracting more such tourists to the picturesque Valley round the year to give a boost to the economy.
This initiative had been taken at a time when people in Kashmir were in the midst of preparing for the harsh winter with increase in power load shedding. Winter had already set in with mercury dipping to sub-zero levels while still awaiting the season’s snowfall ahead of “Chillai Kalaan”.“Chillai Kalan”, the 40-day-long duration of peak winter, is only two weeks away, which begins on December 22, and is an essential part of the distinct four seasons in the Valley.
People’s battle against the harsh winter months ahead begins early with autumn, harvesting of the paddy crop, apple and other fruits and falling of crimson leaves from hefty chinar and other trees.Rice grain, charcoal made by burning of dry twigs from different trees for use in ‘kangri’, the fresh stocks of the firepot (kangri’) and woollen clothes and several other items are stocked by the residents in Kashmir.For any disruption in traffic on the only lifeline to the Valley, the Srinagar-Jammu national highway, due snowfall, the age-old practice of stocking dried vegetables is ensured to suffice in the harder winter days.There has been a greater sense of caution ahead of winter this year as the state government, digressing from the practice of the past over two decades, has done away with having a winter secretariat in Srinagar.When the Durbar moved to Jammu for winter from November, no winter secretariat was made functional in the summer capital.The state government maintained that the civil administration in the Kashmir valley was able to handle things in any eventuality, ranging from maintaining smooth supplies of essential items, power supply and preventive measures required in the event of a natural disaster.With no minister available to the public on a weekly basis in the winter secretariat, the administration has provided the facility of a helpline in the police control room for any emergency.