Shimla: The hill town of Shimla has been a tourist hotspot since the British era, generating large amounts of revenue for Himachal Pradesh. However, this year the picture of the usually bustling capital appears bleak. Water scarcity for the past ten days has come as a major blow to the town, adversely affecting both tourism and business sector.
Shimla gets over 20,000 visitors on a daily basis around this time every year. But the grim picture of water being distributed under police protection is discouraging visitors, leaving them with no choice but to cancel their visits. On Thursday, over 70 personnel had to be deployed to oversee water distribution.
Disgruntled locals have started blocking roads while raising slogans against the BJP-controlled municipal corporation. “Nothing like this has even happened in the last 23 years. We don’t even have tea at office due to this reason,” says Nita Thakur, a resident.
The Shimla Municipal Corporation had yesterday snapped water connections of 20 hotels, two days after the high court ordered the civic body to disconnect supply to the hotels that fail to clear their water bills within 48 hours. This has resulted in a major challenge for those in hospitality business.
Karan and Vivek, two entrepreneurs who moved to Shimla after quitting their jobs, to start a hospitality sector say how the water scarcity has been nothing less than a nightmare. “The lack of basic amenities is extremely discouraging for startups. We need an environment to thrive and even where I stay, there has been no water for the past seven days,” says Vivek
“We have to buy water and employees are stressed. It is affecting the workforce,” adds Karan.
Recently elected Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur though assured the issue would be tackled soon, blamed the shortage of water on the previous government. “People are bound to be upset when water doesn’t reach them, but the four-month old government isn’t to blame for this. The previous government should ponder on its acts,” he says.
The Shimla administration has also postponed the International Shimla Summer Festival, a major tourist attraction scheduled from June 1 to 5, due to the scarcity of water.
While the agitation by locals in quest for water continues along with the blame game, it is disheartening to witness the tourism crown slowly wearing off the head of the once ‘queen of hills’.