Q. What is the news?
The Uttarakhand government, in a recent meeting with Union Home Minister, had sought withdrawal of “inner-line permit” (ILP) system in Niti Valley of Chamoli district and Nelang Valley of Uttarkashi district for better border management and expansion of tourism and other economic activities in villages located there.
Q. What is ILP System?
The ILP system restricts movement in areas close to the border for everyone other than those with a formal permission. In Uttarakhand, tourists have to obtain ILP for locations near China border, at least in the three districts of Uttarkashi, Pithoragarh and Chamoli.
Q. What is the demand by Uttarakhand Government ?
While the Uttarakhand government had requested that two locations be made free from ILP so far, local authorities in these districts say there shouldn’t be any ILP for other places as well so that economic activities increase and villages are rehabilitated so that locals could also act as ‘eyes’ and ‘ears’ at border for surveillance.
It will also stop outward migration. According to officials in these districts, most of the border villages see outward migration owing to lack of livelihood opportunities.
Q. What is the geographical setup of state?
Uttarakhand shares a 350-km border with China and a 275-km boundary with Nepal. Five of the state’s 13 districts are border districts. Chamoli and Uttarkashi share boundaries with China, whereas Udham Singh Nagar and Champawat have common boundaries with Nepal. Pithoragarh is strategically more sensitive as it shares boundaries with both China and Nepal.
Last year, Uttarakhand had decided to provide subsidy for the installation of mobile phone towers in the remote border villages, which are currently mostly out of network coverage area.
Q. Which are the tourist locations and How ILP withdrawal will help?
Nelong Valley, Uttarkashi
Nelong valley is an inner line area (India-China border) opened to domestic tourists only during the day. It is approximately 100 km from Uttarkashi headquarters. In Nelong valley, there are two villages-Nelong and Jadong — both of which have been abandoned since the 1962 war when the villagers migrated to Dunda and Uttarkashi tehsils. ITBP and the Army are deployed here. The China border is about 60-km from the Jadong village. Foreign tourists are prohibited in this area while domestic tourists are allowed entry with ILP. The maximum number of people allowed are 24 in a day and they cannot stay there at night.
If ILP rules are relaxed, it will lead to an increase in tourists inflow and that will create employment opportunities for locals and they will start to return to their villages.
Around 400 to 450 tourists visit Nelong valley every year and most of them turn up during Char Dham yatra when portals of Gangotri shrine are opened. The Uttarakhand State Wildlife Board, in a meeting in November last year, had discussed allowing more tourists and vehicles in a day to Nelong Valley.
Niti village, Chamoli
Located at an altitude of around 3600 metres, Niti village in Joshimath in Chamoli district is the last populated village before China border. Foreign tourists can travel to Niti village after obtaining ILP from Joshimath for a single-day visit, but night stay remains prohibited. Domestic tourists can travel to the village any time in the year by producing any identity proof.
The village remains populated with locals for six months in a year as they migrate to lower altitudes like Joshimath during winters due to adverse weather conditions in higher reaches. They return in summers as that is peak tourist season.
Niti village is around 40-km from Raini village where flash floods in Rishi Ganga river had washed away a hydro power project and several people had died in the incident.
Milam village, Munsiari, Pithoragarh
Milam village is open to tourists but movement in the valley after Lilam village is not allowed without ILP. ITBP allows a minimum possible number of tourists to enter the valley as there is a risk of getting trapped and going missing in snowfalls in that area. Tourists visit here for Milam glacier trek. Villagers in Milam migrate to lower reaches in winters as this area receives heavy snowfall.
Vyas valley, Dharchula, Pithoragarh
In this valley, a permit is required for tourists to visit Naabhi and Kuti villages. Kuti is rge last habitable village. Domestic tourists require ILP to move after Chhiyalekh, which is around 40 km before Kuti village. More than 1000 tourists visit Vyas valley annually, by obtaining ILP to see =Om Parvat from Naabhi village and Adi Kailash from Kuti.