NEED RESTRUCTURED POLICY

Jammu and Kashmir is a state blessed with bounty of tourist destinations in all its three regions be it Valley, Jammu or the Cold Desert Ladakh and tourism today is a substantial component of the economy of this crown state of the nation. While the successive governments have been making tall claims about spending lavishly for enhancing the necessary infrastructure in this sector besides developing new tourist destinations, the stakeholders continue complaining about no visible improvement on the ground level. In this context the business associations have been highlighting the agonies of this very vital sector which is suffering huge losses. The question now arises as to whether this sector is suffering on account of wrong policies of the government and its Tourism Department. One can’t help but agree that the Tourism sector was bleeding due to “promotional activities, neglect of huge existing infrastructure, projecting deceitful tourist arrival figures, favouring a group of vested interests to put up or expand high-end hotels, ignoring environmental concerns and carrying capacity of tourist destinations”. If the traders’ association allegations levelled from time to time are to be believed then it is really a matter of great concern that hundreds of crores have been spent during the past over a decade for the development of new tourist destinations through Development Authorities but having spent such a huge amount, hardly a few destinations are operational on ground today. It is indeed a fact that we have been hearing about expending billions and trillions of rupees on the restoration of Dal Lake during the past over two decades and yet the achievements are far below expectations. Similarly the health resorts of Gulmarg and Pahalgam seem to nearly resemble small cities due to mushrooming of hotels all around most probably with the active connivance of the official machinery. This is hardly any expansion of width of the roads leading to the tourist destinations. Similarly in Jammu we have been hearing about the Tawi Lake and Gondola projects for quite long now but nothing more than namesake works can be seen executed on ground. Foundation for a park was laid along the Tawi River bank from Exhibition to Jogi Gate where the whole area was levelled about three years ago but the area is sans any greenery or flowers being used for conducting rallies besides the whole road along that so called park occupied by different service stations and bus and taxi operators who park the vehicles so much so that the road on only one side of the divider can be used for plying vehicles. In such a situation how can one expect tourists being attracted to this park? This is not the case in seclusion but majority of tourism projects across the state have met the same fate, courtesy those at the helm of affairs in governance especially the concerned department. In view of such a state of affairs, the incumbent government should waste no time in initiating a high-level enquiry or audit of the working, funding and expenditure in this sector as demanded by traders’ body since long. This has become a necessity to find out how much water has flown down the drain and how to restructure the Tourism policy of the state that already abounds in tourist destinations.