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'Don't indulge in Utopian manifestation, it will boomerang'

Shimla: "Do'nt indulge in Utopian manifestation," said an academician as noted author and historian Raaja Bhasin feared its long-term negative impact on the state's tourism sector. Adding to this, former Director General of Police, I D Bhandari, also took to social media posts warning that idea of making Himachal Pradesh a quarantine destination will boomerang. He asked Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur to dump the move.

That's how intellectuals and social activists reacted to Chief Minister's idea of "quarantine destination" ie his offer some selected destinations where people from other states can spend time in isolation.

On political fronts, Thakur is already facing the heat with multi-pronged attacks from the opposition.

Chief Minister, in a TV interview had said Himachal Pradesh has been successful in handling the Coronavirus crisis. Except that the number has gone up recently when the people stranded in the other states, including red zones were allowed to return via special trains, buses and private vehicles, the things are almost in perfect control.

As the tourism industry, which is a big source of economic activity in the state, has suffered a big blow, he (CM) was open to the idea of promoting the hill state as a place where people from across the country can come. They can easily spend their quarantine days. Chief Minister said "suggestions have come from many people, who felt that such a move can boost tourism."

State Congress president Kuldeep Rathore rejected the idea outrightly.

"It is not only wrong to present Himachal as a quarantine destination but it may prove dangerous for the state".

Even stakeholders' body like Shimla Hotel and Restaurant Association (SHRA) said "such an idea will impact the hoteliers adversely. The tourists will stop coming fearing virus spread."

"We want the government to allow tourists after proper medical check-up so that state remains free from COVID -19," said SHRA president Sanjay Sood.

Shimla historian

"This is not an unusual idea. In the past, in other parts of the world, whole islands were converted into things like 'leper colonies.' However, that is what they remained after that and no visitor would go there. The negative association that will come with this is likely to wipe out any chances of a revival in these already difficult times," Raaja Bhasin wrote in a Facebook post.

In response to Bhasin, Daisy Verma, professor at Himachal Pradesh university also raised apprehensions. "Islands converted into 'leper Colonies ' were place segregated for people with such conditions. The idea of having a state open for quarantine tourism involves a greater risk. It raises many pertinent questions. Is it advisable to put the general public and frontline health workers for such an exposure?" she asked.

I D Bhandari, ex-DGP said "I don't think people will react to the idea favourably or in any positive way. Media reports suggest there was opposition by the locals against making any quarantine centre close to their habitation. As the Coronavirus will not leave us sooner or in near future, personally I also feel the idea will boomerang".

A senior environmental scientist also had fears as how to handle medical waste generated at such centres as currently only two incinerators, one at Solan and other at Dharamshala were available.

The government has clarified "CM's statement has been misinterpreted by the media. There is no final decision. Only some suggestions have come "for post COVID time."

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