Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Havelock: Forsaken Paradise | So Close, Yet So Far!

Havelock: Forsaken Paradise

So Close, Yet So Far!
By Zubair Ahmed
Havelock has over the years emerged as the tourism capital of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. It has the most beautiful beach in Radhanagar rated very highly by international agencies and a tourist’s itinerary is incomplete without visiting Havelock.
Everyday about 6-8 boats including two catamarans ferry approximately 1500 tourists to the Island. With around 1000 beds, tourism industry is booming with local population also benefiting from the industry. Out of 45-odd resorts, 15 resorts belong to the local people, who overlooked the lure of the real estate sharks and explored the emerging tourism industry. Resorts and lodges have proliferated all over the place. Ancillary services like water adventure sports, launderette, ayurvedic massage parlours, eating joints have also started to emerge.
Till last year, the Island, touted to be the visage of the Islands bore a very forlorn look with narrow roads without footpath and piling garbage everywhere right from the Jetty. The initiative of the new Administrator Lt Gen A K Singh has started showing results. The roads have been widened with footpaths and a cycling track added. A small but significant step! Radhanagar beach too got a facelift, albeit for the President’s visit.
Despite all the focus and attention, Havelock, which is hardly 60 kms from the capital, has a list of sordid tales to narrate with infrastructural neglect written all over the place.
What the Island today craves is basic infrastructure for the industry to thrive. Once it’s done, the government does not have to do much. The market forces and the inherent urge to climb up the social ladder would ensure the rest.
Of late, disasters have been knocking on the doors with unimaginable frequency. The recent fire incident should be an eye-opener for the Administration. In this case, the telecom network, it seems was also one of the culprits.
“Unfortunately, the emergency fire number 101 was down on that fateful day, due to satellite link failure,” said V Raju, Chief General Manager, BSNL.
The villagers as well as resort owners rues erratic land line and prolonged non attendance of fault repair.
When asked about the erratic phone and internet services in Havelock, he said that things are going to improve very soon. “We have already doubled the bandwidth from 8 MBPS to 16 MBPS prior to President’s visit,” said the CGM. “There were issues with the DG sets too, which we have all replaced,” he added. For the President's visit, a separate optic fibre cable was laid to Dolphin Resort from the Exchange at Havelock Jetty.
“The resort owners can also go for V-SAT connections, which can give them excellent net connectivity,” V Raju said. It is learnt that around six resorts use their own V-SAT Connections.
There are about 185 landline connections in Havelock. The existing exchange has issues and needs to be upgraded, and the satellite link has its own demerits too. “The permanent solution is undersea cable, for which it is learnt that the EFC was held on 11 Feb 2014,” he said.
"Almost all resorts rely on online booking, but they can't access their own websites from Havelock, as there is no net connectivity. ”We have supplied EDC machines to all resorts, but no transactions get completed due to poor phone connectivity," says Suraj Kumar, Manager, SBI, Havelock.  In this age, an Island like Havelock, where on a given time, there are more foreign tourists than any other place in Andamans, the Island remains disconnected from the world. "There is a satellite internet cafe, where one has to shelve Rs 300/- per hour to access internet," said Suraj Kumar.
When through social media, tourists posts their photos and adventures online for their near and dear ones to see, Havelock remains an exception, disconnected, so close, yet, so far!

1 comment:

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