Govt Assures Swift Action To Allow Reconstruction of Houseboats Damaged in Fire
“We can assure that the committee formed on the directions of the High court for the reconstruction and renewal of the houseboats, works swiftly and give the affected families the permission for the reconstruction as soon as possible.”
SRINAGAR — The government on Wednesday said that it will act swiftly to allow the reconstruction of the two houseboats damaged in a fire incident in the wee hours today.
The government has formed two committees, on the directions of the High Court, to work for the betterment of the houseboats.
Alyaz Ahmad Naisroo, Deputy Director, Tourism Department Kashmir, said that the Tourism department is only the registering authority for Houseboats and for the rehabilitation purpose, the other units are responsible.
“We can assure that the committee formed on the directions of the High court for the reconstruction and renewal of the houseboats, works swiftly and give the affected families the permission for the reconstruction as soon as possible,” Naisroo assured.
The assurances came after houseboat owners alleged that they don’t get permission easily for renewal and reconstruction of the Houseboats. “We have to shuttle between the different departments and seek permission from them for the reconstruction or renewal. Most of the time we don’t get the permission,” said Gh Muhammad, a houseboat owner.
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Two houseboats —New Zealand and Apollo 11—were completely damaged in a fire incident earlier today. The houseboats belonged to Ghulam Muhammad Badiyari and Muhammad Yousuf Kahar.
While the cause of the fire is being ascertained, the Houseboat Owners Association (HBOA) expressed deep regret over the incident and demanded the government to rehabilitate the families.
A houseboat owner said that both the houseboats were completely damaged in the incident. Also, all the furniture and other appliances were charred. “Luckily there were no tourists in the houseboat at the time of the incident,” he said.
Houseboats are usually made from the rare cedarwood, mainly found in the forests of north Kashmir, which is costly and not easily available.
“Nowadays, the cost of cedarwood is as costly as gold. The reconstruction of a single deluxe houseboat would cost around Rs 4 crores. The houseboats need to be rebuilt completely,” the houseboat owner said.
The Houseboat Owners Association, in the meanwhile, alleged that the Government has been neglecting the houseboat industry for a long time now.
They said that houseboats are the real cultural heritage and the government should take every possible step to preserve and protect them. “The administration should provide adequate fire-fighting mechanisms for the houseboats,” they demanded.
It is pertinent to mention that the incident has happened at the time of snowfall, especially when the valley is inundated with tourists and the people associated with the tourism sector—directly or indirectly— could easily earn their livelihood.
The houseboats were the only source of income for the families. Houseboat Owners Association president Gh Rasool Siah said that at the time when Kashmir is witnessing a great tourist footfall, these two families have lost their livelihood.
“We appeal to the government to provide some relief to the families so that they don’t have to suffer in these harsh weather conditions,” Siah said. He also demanded the government to support and help the families in the reconstruction of the two damaged houseboats.
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