Early Times Report
KATRA, June 4: With the suspension of the world famous Shri Mata Vaishno Devi pilgrimage for the last more than two and a half months, several trades and businesses associated with the yatra were among the worst hit.
Scores of hotels, lodges, guest houses, restaurants, dry fruit stores, tour and travel operators, Pony-Pithoo wallahs, tea stalls, three wheeler operators in base camp of Katra ran out of business after the Mata Vaishno Devi Yatra was suspended completely on March 18 due to the coronavirus threat.
As the Ministry of Home Affairs issued fresh guidelines recently wherein it said that all shrines will be opened from June 8, a ray of hope has also rekindled among the business community of Katra town who are expecting that the Mata Vaishno Devi Yatra may also resume soon.
The hopes of the Katra businessmen get renewed after Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board (SMVDSB) started drills to put in place the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that will be followed once yatra to the cave shrine resumes.
Meanwhile, several traders and shopkeepers alleged that the whole business in Katra is at the lowest ebb as the economy is losing around Rs 12 to 13 crores per day.
“Though several shops are open in Katra but still the usual hustle-bustle in the markets is missing. Worst sufferers is the hotel industry of Katra which has lost around Rs 4 crore per day due to the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown,” several businessmen said. Rakesh Wazir, President Hotel and Restaurant Association, Katra said that the entire business in Katra has received a severe beating due to the lockdown.
“About 4 to 4.5 lakh people depend directly or indirectly on the Yatra. These people include dry fruit sellers, dhabas, shawl industry, hotels, guest house owners etc and more than 90 percent of business in Katra is dependent on pilgrimage only and all have faced huge losses worth hundreds of crores,” said Wazir.
He demanded that yatra should be resumed with proper SOPs and necessary guidelines so that the business in Katra does not get affected anymore.