Jobless for months, many people running small businesses on the Ridge Maidan in Shimla have returned to work, even though the customer footfall remains negligible.
Last week, five of the 15 horse owners returned to work after a gap of around 110 days. Four photographers had started coming here in May after businesses were allowed to open, but many more have resumed work now.
“Only a few visitors come for horse rides now. But we resumed our services because even the horses were feeling agitated due to such a prolonged lack of activity. The others had gone back to their villages and are not back yet,” said Ghulam Din, one of the horse owners, as a group of three tourists approached them for rides.
Din said buying horse feed costs several hundreds of rupees daily, but they were supported by a charitable society during the lockdown. “We used to earn Rs 500-700 daily during tourist season in a normal year. Currently, it’s only one or two rounds of horse rides a day,” he said. A single round costs Rs 80.
Horse owners, photographers and vendors at the Ridge are mostly relying on local tourists as visitors from outside the state remain largely absent. With intra-state buses allowed to function with 100 percent occupancy now, the daily footfall at the Ridge has increased over the last few weeks.
Some tourists from outside the state have also started arriving here. On July 3, the Himachal Pradesh government allowed the entry of tourists, but with several conditions. Till Friday, around 700 tourists had visited the state, according to state government officials.
Protest against lifting of tourist ban
Members of the Himachal Pradesh Congress Committee, including president Kuldeep Singh Rathore, protested outside the secretariat in Shimla against the government’s recent decision to relax the ban on tourism. Congress leaders said that the entry of tourists is expected to lead to a surge in Covid-19 cases and the government should reconsider its decision to open the borders.
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