Outsourcing of J&K Tourism properties in progress

Committee to decide mechanism modified;  Forest,  Revenue Commissioner, DCs among others  included

RATTAN SHARMA

JAMMU : Over one year after the process of outsourcing tourism properties in Jammu and Kashmir was initiated, the committee constituted for deciding the mechanism witnessed another modification today. This is third modification in the  said committee in last over thirteen months.

As per new modification, Commissioner/Secretary, Forest, Environment & Ecology Department and  Commissioner/Secretary, Revenue Department have been included as co-opted member(s) of the Committee.

Pertinently on December 9, 2021, a seven-member committee was constituted for deciding the mechanism of outsourcing of the identified assets of the Tourism Department in a phased manner. A Government  Order Number 1297-JK(GAD) of 2021 was issued by the then GAD Commissioner Manoj Kumar Dwivedi, in this regard.

As per Order issued in 2021, the said committee was headed by the Financial Commissioner (Additional Chief Secretary) Finance Department as chairman while Financial Commissioner (Additional Chief Secretary) Health & Medical Education Department; Principal Secretary to the Government PW (R&B) Department; Administrative Secretaries of Planning, Development & Monitoring Department; Tourism Department; Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Department and Advisor or PPP expert to be nominated by the NITI Aayog Member were appointed as its members.

As per its terms of reference, the Committee had to select the properties from the identified list to be outsourced; identify the model for each property or group of assets for outsourcing; fix and approve the minimum bid amount for each property to be outsourced.

The committee was also asked to fix and approve the time period for outsourcing of the selected properties; approve the RFP or bid document to be prepared by the Consultancy firm (PPP/legal expert) for outsourcing and deliberate, make decisions on any other issue related to outsourcing of the properties.

As per Order issued by the then GAD Commissioner Manoj Kumar Dwivedi, the committee was to be serviced by the Tourism Department and Managing Director, Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Development Corporation was asked to function as the Nodal officer.

On November 7, 2022, Order Number 1327-JK(GAD) of 2022 was issued making partial modification in its previous order appointing Principal Secretary Industries and Commerce as new chairman replacing Financial Commissioner (Additional Chief Secretary) Finance Department. Director General Codes was also appointed as member of the Committee.

As per Government Order No: 36-JK(GAD) of 2023  issued  by Dr Piyush Singla, Secretary to the Government today, the government made a partial modification of Government Order No. 1297- JK(GAD) of 2021 dated 09.12.2021 read with Government Order No. 327-JK(GAD) of 2022 dated 07.11.2022.

It has been ordered that Commissioner/Secretary to the Government, Forest, Environment & Ecology Department and  Commissioner/Secretary to the Government, Revenue Department shall be co-opted member(s) of the aforesaid Committee.

Concerned Deputy Commissioner(s) & Vice Chairman(s)/Chief Executive Officer(s) of the Development Authorities (if any) shall be special invitees to the Committee.

Secretary to the Government, Health & Medical Education Department shall not be a member of the aforesaid Committee.

As per sources, twelve assets in Jammu and Kashmir were identified for outsourcing, including the Pahalgam Club, Ashoka Hotel in Jammu, and the huts of the J&K Tourism Development Corporation (JKTDC) at Patnitop. The entire exercise was to be finished by the middle of 2023, and more properties like these would be identified in Phase II.

Last year, the Tourism Department gave this information to Joint Secretary in the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, Ashutosh Agnihotri before he presided over a meeting at the Golf Course Jammu in November 2022, to examine the status of the plan to outsource J&K’s tourism assets. The CEOs of the Pahalgam Development Authority, Gulmarg Development Authority, and Patnitop Development Authority, as well as the Director of Tourism from Jammu and the Director of Tourism from Kashmir had attended the meeting last year.

In accordance with the decision made by the J&K government in 2021, the Union Joint Secretary had been informed last year that a total of 12 assets – nine in Jammu and three in Kashmir – had been designated for outsourcing.

Official sources said that Pahalgam Club and a hotel in Gulmarg are among the three properties in Kashmir that are administered by different organisations.

Similar to this, among the nine assets in Jammu is the J&K TDC cottages at Patnitop, Kud, and the Ashoka Hotel.

The Transaction Advisor’s suggestion that a single offer was issued for all 12 properties was taken into consideration, and the Joint Secretary had been subsequently informed.

The J&K government planned to finish the exercise of outsourcing these assets by the middle of next year and thereafter steps would be initiated to identify more such properties, sources stated.

The sources said that the majority of the properties owned by the Tourism Department and the J&K Tourism Development Corporation were not producing the anticipated income for a number of reasons.

“Additionally, neither the Tourism Department nor the J&K Tourism Development Corporation has sufficient manpower for proper upkeep and maintenance of their assets as a result of which their current revenue being generated by the assets of these organisations is not sufficient even for their routine maintenance,” they said

Constitution of a Committee for deciding the mechanism of outsourcing of the identified assets of Tourism Department in a phased manner.