Kargil battlefields bustling with tourists


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May 6, 2009
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12 Jul 2009

LEH: Ten years ago, the cold and hostile mountain terrain of Kargil boomed to the

sound of guns. Now it is home to a bustling tourism
industry. Tiger Hill and Tololing,
two strategic posts heroically captured by the Indian Army, have become major tourist attractions.

“During the peak season, from May to July, all hotels and guest houses are booked to 100% capacity in this inhospitable terrain,” says Brigadier AP Bam, commander artillery brigade, Kargil. Rita Sharma, a tourist from Delhi, was not only enthused enough to drive up to the highest motorable road atop Khardungla Pass at a height of 17,582 feet, but also planned a cab ride to Kargil, some 230 km from Leh.

The rush of tourists to Kargil, Drass and Leh is also a result of the army’s Operation Sadbhavana launched in 2002. Development schemes in health, education, self-sustenance units and sports have gone a long way in strengthening military-civilian relations. Under the scheme, locals including the roving Gujjars and Bakkarwals, have been provided medical aid centres and veterinary camps in remote areas of responsibility (AOR). “They are also provided free mobile vet care,” says Bam.

Stanzin Jigmel a curio shopkeeper in Leh, often attends to tourists from Kargil. “The army has provided us with security and supplies like hand pumps and electricity. This makes it easier for tourists to come here. We sell our craft to them and make money,” says Jigmel, who makes a living out of tourism that thrives in the summer months before the place shuts down from October- November to March-April due to heavy snow.

Adds Tsering Chorol, a local taxi driver who drives tourists from Leh to Kargil, “The army has done a lot in this region. They’ve built roads, bridges, hospitals and schools. Without their help, it would have been difficult to sustain a living.”

Bam maintains that due to development projects, enhanced national attention and induction of additional forces in the area after Operation Vijay (1999), the region’s economy has indirectly taken a big leap. This, in turn, has led to increased tourist activity.

In all about Rs 5.5 crore has been spent in improving living standards of the locals through 29 community development centres built and furnished by the army. More than 548 lanterns and 463 solar streetlights have also been distributed and set up in remote areas. Additionally, the army has also provided for 85 generators, 200 hand pumps, many bus stands, five bore wells, 31 grain thrashers and a few micro hydel projects to the villagers of the area.

In sports, cricket tournaments at tehsil and district level are encouraged. Shaheed Capt Saurabh Kalia Memorial Tournament at Kargil is an annual feature that attracts more than 20 teams from areas nearby.

The army has also employed thousands of porters and pony handlers for winter stocking in the forward areas. This has helped form an efficient information gathering network. “Today, our troops hold very strong positions on the LOC and infiltration routes. Aerial surveillance reinforces ground efforts that ensure ‘zero’ infiltration from this area. All the gaps of 1999 have been plugged,” says Brigadier Bam.

Kargil battlefields bustling with tourists- Travel-Services-News By Industry-News-The Economic Times

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