SAFETY and SECURITY
Pahalgam was the hottest tourist destination for domestic as well as international travelers till 1989. The visitor levels to Kashmir came down to a trickle with the militant movement in the early nineties. However, within a few years situation started to show signs of improvement. Notably Amarnath pilgrims kept coming in doves to Pahalgam. Intra-valley tourism also picked up, and people started visiting Pahalgam, especially during weekends from other parts of Kashmir. In the past few years, the situation is fast coming back to the normal (pre-1989 days), with an ever increasing numbers of domestic Indian and foreign tourists now visiting Pahalgam.
Suffice to say that today, in year 2005, Pahalgam, and the Kashmir valley, is as safe a place to visit as any other part of India, or any other tourist place in this part of the world.The improving conditions in Jammu and Kashmir (J and K) have provided a huge boost to tourism in the militancy-torn valley, which registered more than a 10-fold jump in the number of tourists in 2003. As compared to 18,000 tourists in 2002 — the worst year for tourism in J and K — as many as two lakh tourists, a majority of them from Maharashtra and Gujrat, visited the valley in 2003. It is estimated that about 10 lakh tourists will visit the state during the coming season (2004).
The number of pilgrims visiting the various religious places in the valley has also been highly encouraging. As per official accounts, as many as 1.70 lakh pilgrims did the Amarnath yatra in 2003, as compared to 82,000 in 2002. A staggering 50 lakh devotees took darshan at Vaishno Devi in 2003, as compared to 35 lakh in 2002. The number of devotees visiting the famous Khirbhavani shrine in Srinagar also registered a huge increase. Last year, 50,000 Kashmiri Pandits visited the shrine. During the pre-militancy period, the average number of visitors to the shrine never exceeded 8,000.
The room availability has gone up to 6,000 and people are being encouraged to provide lodging facilities in their homes as well. The presence of the military at tourists spots, except at the most sensitive ones, has been reduced in a phased manner.
The political parties have also begun contributing their bit to the restoration of the top tourist destination. The Congress conducted its working committee meeting in Srinagar and the Prime Minister has also made a few visits to the Valley.