It wasn't such a lovely weekend for tourists coming to Mussoorie after all. With the one-hour Dehradun- Mussoorie drive taking almost six hours, tourists had a harrowing Saturday on the road.
Ask Manjeet Singh from Delhi. While his Dehradoon Shatabdi train took five-and-a-half hours to get him to Dehradun, it took him a full six hours to travel further to Mussoorie. The reason? The hill town was sold out for the weekend. With all the hotels booked and Mussoorie roads choked with vehicles, the traffic police thought the best way to control crowds was to stop vehicles at two points en route to Mussoorie.
The traffic situation forced the administration to deploy additional strength on the roads, with 10 sub-inspectors and 25 constables more to manage traffic en route to Mussoorie.
A beeline of vehicles on the picturesque road not just spoke of the harassment tourists faced but also of the gross lack of planning on the authorities' part.
"These things create an extremely negative impression about the town. A tourist with a booking called up to say his clutch plate had burnt and he didn't have the patience to go through the jam, so he was going back. I am sure many who braved the road today have sworn not to return," says R N Mathur, president, Mussoorie Hotel Association, talking to TOI.
The administration, on its part, pointed to a sharp rise in the traffic volume over the weekend. "Nearly 2,000-2,500 vehicles enter the town daily in the peak summer season, but the numbers increased tremendously during the weekend. There are about 25,000 tourist vehicles in the town, while there is parking space for a mere 3,000," pointed out Dehradun DIG Pushpak Jyoti, talking to TOI.
Under the current circumstances, said the DIG, local authorities were trying their best to cope, but they could not take to extreme measures, like asking tourists not to proceed to Mussoorie from Dehradun.
What made matters worse was that the whole of last week saw power cuts for up to six hours, which affected water supply. "Who would want to come on a holiday and not have access to basics like water and power?" asked Mathur.
A cafe owner on the Mall Road said that despite it being a sold out day in the town, he recorded low sales because of power problems. "A sold out town is great news but when you don't have basic facilities its negative publicity," said Sandeep Sahni, member, Tourism Development Board, Uttarakhand. "For a town like Mussoorie, which gives a revenue of Rs 50-60 crore to the state's exchequer, one definitely needs better facilities."
Some tourists were clear about whether they would return here. "I am certainly not coming back after this experience," said Suhaani Ganguly, a tourist who was stranded in the jam.