“Actually the problem with the government is that it is insensitive towards its citizenry; had it not been so, then certainly it would not have gone ahead with the ‘Khelo India’ winter sports event at Gulmarg.” This is one of the many angry reactions from the people here as they shared their views with a FM radio channel other day. Even if one may not agree with this articulation in its entirety, but there is still some merit in it as it exposes the callousness of the authorities in overlooking the looming coronavirus threat by going ahead with the sporting activities at Gulmarg. In fact not only at Gulmarg, but elsewhere also there have been no precautionary curbs on huge gatherings as a few football matches have also been played here over the past several days which of course attracted large gatherings. Given that countries across the globe have either cancelled local sporting events or at least ensured that people do not gather inside the stadia to watch these events, the conclusions drawn about the government’s handling of the situation here is indicative of its insensitivity towards the challenges posed by the coronavirus. Mind it, Kashmir climate is such that it provides ideal conditions for such viruses to thrive!
Notwithstanding official claims about preparedness, fact of the matter is that even the developed countries – despite being way ahead in terms of physical and scientific wherewithal to deal with such threats — are finding it increasingly difficult to deal with the coronavirus’ spread. This is why the governments across India are extensively using print and electronic media to inform and educate people about the dos and don’ts vis-a-vis coronavirus, most dominant of admonitions being to avoid large gatherings. Even the official Holi events, including the ones that were to be hosted by the President and the Prime Minister have been cancelled as these would have involved large gatherings. However, here what we saw is Kiren Rijiju, who is the Minister of State (Independent charge) in the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, even after cancelling quite a few sports events elsewhere in the country, came to Gulmarg for inaugurating the Khelo India event. Now how does one interpret and explain this?
Any initiative that promises promotion of sports or tourism or for that matter any other economic activity in Kashmir is more than welcome. But the emergent situation in the face of coronavirus threat is perhaps not an ideal time for it. Right now the top-most priority must, and has to be, dealing with the challenges posed by the new disease which is not only killing people but has already ripped apart the global tourism industry, and is inflicting huge damages and costs on some of the most robust economies across the world. As far as helping sports and tourism sectors in Kashmir goes, it goes without saying that the government would have done this place a lot more good if the same money which has been spent on Kehlo India events in Gulmarg would have instead been invested for developing FIS (Fédération Internationale de Ski or International Ski Federation) approved slopes at the resort. By the way Gulmarg has huge potential for quite a few such slopes, but having even one FIS approved slope at Gulmarg would automatically catapult this place on top of the global map of winter sports. Should it happen, one could only imagine its benefits both in terms of sports as well as tourism.