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Notification closing tourist places during Dasara holidays withdrawn

Chief Minister relents to appeal by stakeholders including hoteliers and tour operators

The notification on closure of tourist places in Mysuru from October 17 to November 1 issued by the district administration to curb the surge in COVID-19 cases, has been withdrawn following protests by stakeholders.

The district in-charge Minister, S.T. Somashekar, made the announcement during the inauguration of Dasara on Saturday that consequent to the appeal by the stakeholders and to ensure that tourism does not suffer another crippling blow, Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa has directed the district administration to withdrawn the notification. Mr. Somashekar said it will be mandatory for the tourists to ensure social distancing and personal hygiene besides wearing masks.

Mysuru Deputy Commissioner Rohini Sindhuri had issued a directive last week that the closure would come into effect from October 17 coinciding with the beginning of Dasara. This was to discourage tourists from surrounding districts to make a beeline to Mysuru during the festival holidays and to participate in Dasara which, the authorities fear, will result in a surge in the COVID-19 cases.

Some of the tourist spots including the palace, zoo, Chamundi Hills, and KRS in the neighbouring district of Mandya, used to register a high footfall during the pre-pandemic times and hence there were concerns about the fallout of huge congregation amidst the ongoing war against the pandemic.

The decision was also taken based on the Kerala experience when the number of COVID-19 cases registered a sharp surge after the Onam holidays. As Mysuru draws a huge crowd during Dasara, the district administration which is under pressure to reduce the case load and take appropriate measures, thought it fit to discourage tourists from visiting the city during the festival holiday season. Though Kodagu and Mandya disricts too followed suit, the closure was limited to a few specific days and not the entire duration of the holiday season.

But stakeholders represented by Mysuru Travels Association, Hotel Owners Association, registered guides etc., opposed the move on the grounds that the closure of tourist places amounted to imposing new restrictions at a time when the State government itself was in favour of opening up public places.

The association members pointed out that the State Tourism Department was promoting Karnataka stating it was safe to travel and they were ready to welcome the tourists. But the directives closing tourist places was antithetical to the government’s move on graded unlocking to revive the economy.

They submitted a memorandum to the Chief Minister who was in Mysuru for Dasara inauguration and pleaded their case following which he sought a review of the original decision.

However, this volte face by the government on a measure to curb the spread of the pandemic, has also come under criticism from various quarters on the grounds that it went against the stated objective of tackling the pandemic. A section of the officials, on condition of anonymity, underlined the contradiction in the government’s stated objectives and deeds. They said on the one hand the elected representatives are appealing to people to watch the proceedings live on TV and not venture outside. On the other hand they are opening up tourist places, illuminating Mysuru etc which encourages congregation and tourist movement.

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