In the backdrop of the Galwan Valley standoff, the Centre is planning to build a second line of defence in villages bordering China by relaxing tourism-related activities. Sources say the first step in the direction will be to free some parts of Gangotri area in Uttarakhand from the Inner Line Permit (ILP) system.
Uttarakhand shares a 350-km border with China. Most of the border villages see outward migration owing to a lack of livelihood opportunities.
Recently, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat had a meeting with S Deswal, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) chief, in which the latter raised issues pertaining to reverse migration, road, mobile and power connectivity, and promotion of tourism in remote areas.
Following the meeting, the Uttarakhand government announced steps to improve critical infrastructure, promote tourism and civilian settlements in the border areas of the state.
On Wednesday morning, Union Tourism Minister Prahlad Patel and Uttarakhand Tourism Minister Satpal Maharaj had an elaborate discussion on the matter at the former’s office, where the Centre is said to have agreed in-principle to the state’s action plan. A formal order to the effect will come from the Ministry of Home Affairs in due course.
After the meeting, Maharaj told The Indian Express, “We want our border villages to be safe, for which we have mooted the concept of tribal tourism. For instance, we can have skiing activities in Niti Valley area during winter, and the place will become inhabited if people get livelihood through tourism. That will ensure safety and surveillance of our border villages and troops will get additional support.
“In the first stage, we will open up Mukhba, Bagholi and Harsil in the Gangotri area, so you can see and enjoy all these places,” he said.
The minister said that once the ILP system was lifted, the state tourism department would encourage houses in the villages to be developed as homestays which will directly help the village economy.
“Next, we are looking to get permission for Kuti and Byas villages in Pithoragarh district,” Maharaj said, adding that visitors in border villages would get to taste tribal cuisine. “We will also hold discussions with the Home Ministry regarding drawing up a list of other villages where they feel the need for increasing surveillance,” he said.
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