For Ponywalas in Gulmarg, letting horses graze is only job now

Ponywalas sitting idle at tourist resort of Gulmarg. — Excelsior/Aabid Nabi
Ponywalas sitting idle at tourist resort of Gulmarg. — Excelsior/Aabid Nabi

“Allow movement of local tourists”

Excelsior Correspondent

SRINAGAR, June 22: The ponywalas in world-famous resort Gulmarg have been literally rendered unemployed owing to the situation in Kashmir since last year with the COVID-19 pandemic adding to it.

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The routine of these ponywalas used to be to get down from their residences and work in the meadows by providing horse rides to the tourists.
The tourists-locals as well as from rest of the country used to cherish the ride, while the ponywalas used to earn some money as well, however, since last year their routine has totally changed.
“Now, our routine is to come down here and let the horse grace till evening, and by the evening we start heading back home; during this time, we lie idle, without any work,” Muhammad Rafiq, working as a ponywala in Gulmarg for last 50 years told Excelsior.
He said that the horses that they have got are of no use to them in the absence of visitors who used to come here. “While the tourists from the rest of the country are not able to come here, the local people are not allowed to visit Gulmarg by the administration. They are being stopped at Tangmarg itself-thus pushing us to more hardships,” he said.
The ponywalas said that they have not seen a single tourist in the last many months, and that they are not in a position to meet their ends and feed their families. “The Government should take note of our sufferings as well and at least allow the movement of local tourists to Gulmarg,” said Muhammad Hameed, another ponywala.
They told Excelsior that there used to be around 2000 horses operating in Gulmarag, however, they said, there are few horses of best quality brought in from other parts of the country after spending huge amounts. However, everything is lying useless as of now.
“We have spent around 2 lakh rupees and have bought these horses, but they are of no use to us right now,” they said.
On average, one ponywala used to earn Rs 500-1000 per day with which they used to take care of their horses along with modestly fulfilling the needs of their families. “But, since long we have not even had a glimpse of even Rs 10,” they said.
They said that the Government, while knowing their condition, has ignored them so far and has not provided them with any relief. “Either, they allow the local tourists come here so that they enjoy the surroundings and we be able to earn some money, or provide us with some compensation so that we could carry on,” they said.