Taxi operators on strike as Rohtang still off limits
Hundreds of tourists who descended on this Himachal Pradesh resort to enjoy the snowy landscape in its nearby hills were inconvenienced on Tuesday as taxi drivers went on a daylong strike. They later decided to extend the strike by a day.
More than 2,000 taxis remained off the roads to protest against the administration's decision restricting the entry of tourist vehicles bound for the Rohtang Pass beyond Gulaba, Raj Kumar Dogra, President of the Him-aanchal Taxi Operators Union, said.
He said there was no indication from the administration to end the deadlock so they had decided to extend their strike till Wednesday.
Gulaba is on the way to the Rohtang Pass and is some 26 km from here.
Dogra said the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) had cleared the snow leading to the Rohtang Pass from here in the last week of April and the civil administration assured that tourist vehicles bound for the pass would be allowed in the first week of May.
"Till date the tourists are not allowed to go beyond Gulaba. If the administration allows, we will immediately withdraw the strike," Dogra said.
It is only the snow that is attracting the tourists to Manali this season, he said.
"At Gulaba the entire snow has melted. We are requesting the administration to allow the tourist vehicles to reach up to Marhi, which is just eight km ahead of Gulaba, so that they can enjoy the snow."
Auto operators and private mini bus operators of Manali also joined the protest.
The picturesque Rohtang Pass, located in the Pir Panjal range of the Himalayas and 52 km from here, is a major attraction for both domestic and foreign tourists. Till mid June, it is covered in snow.
"We have specially come all the way from Kolkata to enjoy the snowy landscape. On reaching here we were told that tourists are not allowed to go there. This is unprofessional attitude of the local authorities," an agitated Abhijit Chatterji said.
Official sources said currently vehicles carrying locals and government officials, who are bound for Lahaul-Spiti district, are allowed to ply across the Rohtang Pass, located at an altitude of 13,050 feet in Kullu.