Aug 5, Covid-19 hit tourism industry, pony wallas turned timber smugglers, says Omar

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Srinagar: Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Tuesday said August 5, 2019 development coupled with COVID-19 fallout have hit the tourism industry and some pony wallas earning from tourists have turned timber smugglers to feed their families in the valley.
Taking to micro blogging site Twitter the vice president of the National Conference (NC) Omar said “The twin blows of Aug 5th 2019 and the COVID fallout have left people connected with the tourist industry economically devastated. Some like these pony wallas have turned to timber smuggling to feed their families.”
He also re-tweeted a tweet of a pony walla which reads “When I axed a pine tree for the first time, my heart pounded and my hands shivered. For days, I did not offer prayers. I don’t know whether Allah will forgive me,” said a 46-year-old Kashmiri, a father of three. “I commit this sin to feed my family.”
The centre directed all tourists and Amarnath pilgrims to leave Jammu and Kashmir because of militant threat before finally scrapping Article 370 and dividing the state into two Union Territories (UTs) on August 5, last year after strict curfew restrictions were imposed and all communication network suspended. Leaders of all mainstream and separatist organizations, including three former Chief Ministers were detained.
However, this year when things were looking better and few tourists arrived here, strict lock down was imposed to prevent spread coronavirus in the country, including UT of J&K.
Barring government employees, all sections of the society were economically devastated, including those associated with tourism industry, particularly pony wallas and those working in hotels and dhabas.