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Himachal Pradesh Tourism Industry Prepares For Hardships As COVID Cases Rise

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This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.

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Tourism Industry in Himachal Pradesh will be able to curb up the losses in unlock 1.0?

During this pandemic, the whole country is facing all kinds of issues and learning how to deal with them, be it Zoom conferences or Google Duo meetings, and much more. COVID-19 has made the world realize that it is not necessary to meet to get the work done. However, it is difficult but not impossible, as our prime minister Narendra Modi said, “We have to learn things in order to become aatmnirbhar.”

Looking at the state’s rising coronavirus cases, the Himachal Pradesh government decided on Monday to extend the lockdown in two state districts, Solan and Hamirpur until June 30. These two places are emerging as the state’s new coronavirus epicenters.

The development comes after 63 cases of the virus were reported by Hamirpur, the highest in the state. So far, 21 people in Solan district have tested positive for the infection. The state has reported 214 cases in all, including five deaths, so far. According to officials’ updates, Hamirpur saw a spurt in COVID-19 cases as people in large number returned from other parts of the country to the state. The district now has 57 of the state’s 142 active cases.

Looking at the state’s rising coronavirus cases, the Himachal Pradesh government decided on Monday to extend the lockdown in two state districts, Solan and Hamirpur until June 30.

In Himachal Pradesh, entrepreneurs in the tourism sector are trying to line out a roadmap for the state’s post-lockdown period. With hotels shut down for an indeterminate time, most of them are thinking differently when it comes to using their premises.

In an article, Rajeev Khanna states how the hoteliers of Solan are struggling to cope with the situation and thinking about converting their premises into paying guest accommodations and much more.

For the past two decades, Amit Pratap Sachdeva, who has run a resort in Solan, has decided to turn his premises into girls’ paying-guest accommodation for the time being. “To survive, we will have to look for alternatives to keep things going. Because I have 15 rooms available in which, I can accommodate 30 girl students,” he said. “We know that it will take a long time for the hotel industry to open up and run profitability. There are people who are thinking about converting hotels into residential sets that can be rented out for about the next year at least,” added Sachdeva.

“We told Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur that 98% of the work of the hoteliers is based on the principle of first earnings and then expenses. We have no capital corpus whatsoever,” Sanjay Sood, president of Shimla Hoteliers and Restaurant Association said. The hoteliers have requested relief on power, water, and garbage collection bills, citing no current earnings. They have been asking for billing on actual or domestic charges as they will not be able to pay commercial rates, Sood added.

When one of the reporter asked Sood about the relief funds for the hoteliers, who are in large numbers in the state and have returned home, he claimed, “One positive aspect is that the workers own small pieces of land that they can work on back home. We have stood by them and will be giving them all the support we can in the upcoming days.”

According to B. S. Marh who is an expert in geography, “By its very nature tourism is a gatherer of crowds. The industry is not only in shock during the pandemic but will stay in the same state even after that. But that sector must definitely need to be streamlined.” 

People engaged in taxi and hotel services were adversely affected as tourists cannot visit the state with the country under lockdown to fight the coronavirus. Credits: Scroll

But apart from screening, post-lockdown, things will change on all fronts, Marh said. Social distancing would become a norm; carriage vehicles would not be packed to the max. Similarly, rooms in hotels that previously accommodated a full family would no longer be the same. All this would mean a cost escalation. Marh noted the prevailing scenario until last year, when people came in very large numbers through all modes of transportation to gag tourist destinations where there was no parking space available, could not be allowed to repeat.

In 2019, Himachal Pradesh saw a footfall of over 17 million visitors, among whom 0.35 million were from other parts of the world. Reportedly the tourism industry is contributing around ₹6,000 crore to the state exchequer. The lockdown came at a time when tourism activities normally pick up for the summer season and thousands of people earn an income for the rest of the year that would sustain them for the remaining year.

This is true that the COVID-19 pandemic has been awful for many industries, but one of the worst affected sectors is the travel and tourism industry. People engaged in taxi and hotel services were adversely affected as tourists cannot visit the state with the country under lockdown to fight the coronavirus. According to them, the tourism sector has been adversely affected by COVID-19 as in April, May and June, an estimated 50-60% of total revenue is generated in a year.

According to data from the State Tourism Department, there are 3,679 hotels with a capacity of 1,03 lakh beds and 2,189 home-stay facilities with a capacity of 12,181 beds. The actual figures are much higher, though. There are more than 8,000 hotels and more than 4,000 residence facilities in Shimla, Kullu-Manali, Dharamshala, Dalhousie, and Kasauli, making this sector dependent on a considerable size of the population and contributing nearly 7% to the state’s GDP. In an article in The Tribune, Sood said, “It is a dark future ahead for the hotel industry and unless the government comes to our rescue, survival will be tough for most of us.

The state initially had less than 50 cases of COVID-19, but a rise in cases was witnessed when students from different parts of the country came back. Still, compared to other states, Himachal Pradesh is in a better position, as it has only over 300 cases, including 5 deaths.

Whatsoever will be the result, travelling is a necessity for a human being. Today the conditions are not so apt, and the hoteliers and the travel industry of Himachal Pradesh and other states might be suffering, but this industry has to keep going on. It is very important for each and every individual of the country to stand together during these hardships of the pandemic, and it is quite an apt time to remind ourselves the famous quotation, that “We travel not to escape life, but for life not escape us.” And this might not be the right time to travel but it has to come, as traveling makes us content.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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