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A trip to Chitkul: My quest to be Himalayan for life



chitkul, Kinnaur

To be born and brought up in the Himalayas is a great privilege not everyone gets. And I am one of those lucky chaps who grew up rolling in mud of the mighty mountains. Exploration is an instinct that grew stronger and stronger as I traded off countryside living for higher education. There is a saying if smell of Himalayas creeps into your blood, you will return to the misty mountains time and again. And this is how my journey to be a Himalayan for life started; my body and mind stopped responding to a mundane life of corporate world and I quit my job to embark on an unforgettable journey with my friend (Sunny) to Chitkul – a beautiful, small village situated at an altitude of 11,320 feet in Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh. I still remember biting cold morning of February month when winter was in full swing. My hometown (Shimla) was already shrouded in a thin layer of snow when we booked two tickets to Sangla – 215 km away from Shimla. Temperature was in minus and the idea of travelling on bike was already out of question.

At 7:00 a.m. in the morning, we grabbed a seat in an HRTC bus that took us to Sangla. We reached there at 6:00 p.m. when it was snowing. With great difficulty we managed to find an affordable room at a homestay; spent a night there and woke up in the morning to see the entire village covered in one foot thick layer of snow. It was a great disappointment to know that the traffic had came to a halt and travelling to Chitkul – our ultimate destination which was still more than 22 km from Sangla – looked impossible. We requested a taxi driver and hired him who managed to take us 4km in the snowy road, and finally gave it to circumstances when the car skidded to hover a foot over the edge of the road.

Snowfall at Sangla

Sangla, Kinnaur

Sangla, Kinnaur_1

We paid the brave fellow and decided in a fraction of seconds to move ahead to cover another 18km on foot to reach our destination. We kept walking while leaving our footmarks behind us on the untouched snow. It had started snowing again and all we could hear was sound of fresh snow crunching under our feet in petrifying silence that accompanied us for another seven hours until we reached Chitkul at seven in the evening. Snow, which measured mere a foot in the day, had piled up to two feet by the time we reached our destination.




It snowed for another one hour and suddenly came to a halt while we finished finding a room at HPPWD resthouse. The caretaker, a localite, at the resthouse was more than amazed to see us all draped in snow in time when no traveler dared visiting that region of the state. He was kind enough to offer us warm water for drinking and washing hands and feet, followed by tasty food. As we stepped out in the small courtyard after having dinner (there was no balcony as the building was single floor) to see the weather, we were amazed to see what the Mother Nature had bestowed us with – a million dollar view of the valley shining like a pearl in bright moonlight. We were the only two people, other than natives, to have been offered an opportunity to see a never-before-seen view of the valley, as per the villagers. My camera was out of juice and power supply had already crippled in the village due to heavy snow, all we could do was store all the beautiful memories in hard disks of our minds.

chitkul HPPWD Rest House

Next morning, we did not want to leave that place, but clear weather and sparkling snow invited and challenged us to get rolling on the way back to the zero point. We also accepted the challenge with great courage and courtesy, and started walking back again.

Bad weather, deep silence, bone-chilling winds, hunger, and tiredness were few things we eventually befriended on our quest to be ‘Himalayan for life,’ and, in all certainty, this was one of the best things we ever did.


chitkul temple

The way back

chitkul - the way back


Hopes of Himachal’s Tourist Industry for a White Christmas High as HP Met Predicts Snow/Rain till Dec 26



white christmas in himachal pradesh

Shimla-Hopes of Himachal Pradesh’s tourism industry for a ‘White Christmas’ are high as weather prediction indicates snow/rain on December 25, 2021. The possibility of a White Christmas is likely to attract more tourists than usual. A larger influx of tourists implies a fortune for the industry.

According to the latest weather forecast issued by the HP Met Department, Shimla, on December 22, the high hills of Himachal could receive rain/snow from 22 to 26th December, while the weather would remain dry in the middle and plains.

On 25th December, the Met has predicted rain/snow across the state. The higher and middle hills could receive snow/rain at a few places. The Department has also issued a yellow alert for 26 and 25th December with a prediction of heavy snow/rain at isolated places.

The Met has predicted moderate to heavy rain/snow at most places across the state on 26 December.  

Other than a White Christmas, snowfall around New Year always cheers tourists, ensuring a heavy footfall. However, heavy snow sometimes brings troubles when it hits essential services, like electricity, water, transportation etc.

Also, this would mean more crowds and entry of visitors from every part of the country amid the spread of the new variant of Coronavirus – Omicron. Neither the public nor the leaders are adhering to the Covid appropriate behaviour. Right now, the government is aggressively focusing on the preparations for the proposed rally of PM Narender Modi to Himachal Pradesh on 27th December.

For locals, other than employed in the hospitality industry, larger influx means traffic snarls, tourist overcrowding, and nuisance in some cases. It also adds to the already existing shortage of parking in tourist towns, especially Shimla city.

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Kinnaur: Ban on Trekking, Mountaineering in District After Two Horrid Tragedies



ban on trekking in kinnaur district

Shimla-Following two separate tragic incidents where 10 tourists, who had undertaken trekking expeditions into high altitude areas of Himachal Pradesh’s Kinnaur district, went missing and were later found dead, the district administration has decided to put a complete ban on such activities in the region for the time being.

The Deputy Commissioner, Kinnaur district, Apoorv Devgan, on Monday issued a notification regarding the same.

“A large number of trekking enthusiasts scale the treacherous mountain treks/peaks of the district, making it a hotspot for these adventure activities. However, during the onset and peak of the winter season, the climatic conditions tend to change quickly, which poses a great threat to the life of the trekkers,” the notification said.   

“Also undertaking search and rescue missions in such conditions are very risky which makes it necessary to restrict the trekking and mountaineering activities in the season,” the notification said.

Citing these reasons, the DC, under Section 34 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, ordered the imposition of ban on trekking and mountaineering on all the treks in the district till further orders.  He said legal action would be taken against violators.

It’s pertinent to mention that in two separate instances, 10 such tourists have died during the past week. On October 13, a group of 11 trekkers with six Nepalese porters had left from Uttarkashi, Uttarakhand, to Chitkul, on a trekking expedition. They were supposed to reach Chitkul on October 19. However, as the weather took a turn and led to heavy snowfall in the region, the trekkers got stuck at Lamkhaga Pass in Kinnaur district. While the porters decided to keep going and reached Chitkul on October 20, the trekkers decided to camp at the Pass. Later, during an ongoing rescue operation, two tourists were rescued alive in wounded condition, and dead bodies of seven of them were recovered. Two of them are still missing. These tourists included persons from Mumbai and guides from Uttarakhand.

In the second instance, 13 tourists left from Janglik of Rohru, Shimla district, on a trekking expedition to Sangla, Kinnaur district, on October 19. However, by October 24, they got stuck in bad weather conditions. Three of them died while the rescue team of police rescued 1o of them safely. Most of these tourists hailed from West Bengal.

Travel/trekking agencies have also been blamed for these two tragedies as they ignored warnings issued by the Meteorological Department and led these tourists into death traps. Moreover, the governments haven’t set any strict criteria for granting licenses to such agencies/guides. Often untrained and novice youth organize these expeditions, resulting in such disasters.

While the tough mountains of Himachal’s higher altitude regions lure tourists who wish to satisfy their appetite for adventure, many of them tend to be unaware of the lethal risks they pose, especially with untrained guides. The two tragic instances have aptly proved it.    

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Crisis for Himachal’s Tourism Industry Deepens with Peak Season Washout for Second Consecutive Year




HP govt no relief to tourism industry
  • Stakeholders of the tourism industry face financial hardships as working capital exhausts completely 

  • Majority of tourism stakeholders not able to benefit from the scheme due to stringent conditions

  • Interest subvention scheme yet to be implemented

  • Biggest hurdle in the scheme is the cut off date of the outstanding balance of the loan

  • Defaulting EMIs ruined the reputation of the stakeholders and bared them to procure financial assistance in future from the financial institutions

  • The Association asks the government to ease down the restrictions and conditions on tourists as the daily cases have declined

Shimla-The tourism industry in Himachal Pradesh, one of the major sources of state economy and employment, is bearing the brunt of the pandemic more than any other sector as Covid related restrictions have brought tourism movement to a grinding halt. The sector has reported an estimated Rs. 1500 crores loss since the pandemic. It’s estimated that over two lakh people associated with the tourism sector are now unemployed. There is no count of medium and small-scale tourism-related ventures in Himachal that are now shut because of the pandemic-induced restrictions.

The cab drivers and transporters, who are an integral part of the hospitality industry chain, are also facing hardships. For several, paying instalments of loans procured to buy cabs/carriage vehicles is the biggest challenge.  This crisis is not only driving them into a debt trap but also causing extreme psychological stress.

Meanwhile, the state government has failed in providing any substantial relief to the stakeholders of affected sectors. In April 2021, the state government had announced a 50 per cent concession on stage carriage special road tax (SRT) for three months from April. A 50 per cent concession on passenger tax on taxis and contract carriage was also announced along with an interest subvention scheme. The stakeholders say that the interest subvention scheme was yet to be implemented. Also, they can’t take loans as they have defaulted on loan instalments last year.

The situation for this sector has grown grimmer as the peak season gets washout for a second consecutive year. The Tourism Industry Stake Holders Association has once again pleaded Chief Minister Jairam Thakur to rescue the sector and its stakeholders from this crisis by providing reliefs.

“Three months of summer make peak tourist season and play a major role in the sustenance of the hotel industry,” says Mohinder Sethi, President of the Association.

“The tourism industry faced a complete loss of summer season last year due to Covid -19 pandemic. This year too, 75% of the season is lost,” he adds.

“The stakeholders of the tourism industry are facing financial hardships firstly because their working capital has completely exhausted and secondly because tourism in Himachal Pradesh has again come to a grinding halt since March 2021,” he further adds.

He further RBI’s restructuring of loans with a condition that the loan account should be standard as of March 31, 2021. However, the hotels have no occupancy for the last three months due to which the stakeholders could not pay their EMIs for March, April and May months.

The tourism industry remained closed for almost eight months last year due to nationwide lockdown. Now this year again just before the tourist season the second wave Covid pandemic has compelled the hoteliers to keep their units closed due to nil occupancy, Sethi says.

Stakeholder Deprived of Availing Benefits of RBI Scheme

The RBI has introduced the  Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme 3.0 to provide relief to the tourism, hospitality and travel sector but the majority of tourism stakeholders could not take benefit of this scheme due to its stringent conditions, Sethi says.

“The biggest hurdle in the scheme is the cut off date of the outstanding balance of the loan, which is 29 February 2020 that also with a condition that the account should not have a default of more than sixty days as on February 2020, Sethi adds.

He argues that the majority of tourism units were compelled to take fresh loans during the past year to meet their running expenses of the units because the state government had extended no assistance last year. 

The Association says that the RBI needs to make amendments by extending the cut off date to March 31, 2021, and relax the condition of the number of days of default of EMI.

“The state working capital interest subvention scheme is still awaited. It has been observed that the process of extending help to the industry takes a very long time which creates a big gap between the ground reality,” Sethi says.

He says that the fear of declaring loan accounts as NPA by banks is a live example of it.

“If the financial assistance were provided on time it would have saved many tourism units loan account from slipping to non-performing accounts,” Sethi says.

He says that the labelling of  NPA accounts has ruined the reputation of the stakeholders and bared them to procure financial assistance in future from the financial institutions.  The tourism industry is worst affected throughout due to pandemic, he adds.

“The stakeholders are helpless because state government provided no financial assistance. On the other hand, there is no inflow of tourists to the state due to stringent restrictions imposed by the government to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.

The Association is now asking the government to ease down the restrictions and conditions on tourists as the daily cases have declined.

“Now the graph of Covid cases is drastically reduced, and the need of the hours is to remove the restrictions like e- Covid pass and compulsory RTPCR negative report for tourists intending to come to Himachal. This will give some oxygen to the dying tourism industry because the tourism units can at least generate some revenue to meet their expenses up to some extent during the remaining 25,% tourist season,” Sethi says.

“We request Chief Minister Jairam Thakur to introduce an interest subvention scheme and remove the restrictions on entering the state in the upcoming cabinet meeting to be held on May 5, 2021, in the larger interest of the survival of the tourism Industry, Sethi said on the behalf of the Association.

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