Mufti inaugurates Sindhu Festival at Leh

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LEH, JUNE 12: Describing Sindh as fountainhead of one of the world’s oldest civilizations, Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, today asserted that Ladakh’s identity as a great seat of Buddhist Culture will be showcased before the world.

He said Indus is not a river but a flowing civilization that makes us proud of our glorious and historic past.

The Chief Minister was speaking after inaugurating the annual three-day Sindhu festival, here today. Also known as Singhey Khababs, the festival is a carnival for tourists, in particular foreigners, who witness the captivating charms of Ladakh, the Land of Enchanting Beauty.

Immediately on his arrival at Leh Airport, Mufti Sayeed was received by Rigzen Spalbar, Chief Executive Councillor (CEC), LAHDC, Leh. He was also given a rousing reception at Sindhu Ghat by a huge gathering of people on his first visit here after becoming the Chief Minister.

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Describing cultural tourism as the backbone of Ladakh’s economy, the Chief Minister said it provides avenues of employment and business opportunities for local population. He said he favoured opening of more trading points in Ladakh, as has been done in the case of Sikkim.

Urging not to put tourism at loggerheads with environment, he also described Ladakh as an adventurer’s delight, which offers vistas in mountaineering, trekking and river-rafting. “The biggest attraction though remains the great Buddhist Culture living in its monasteries, which continue to mesmerise visitors from across the country and abroad,” he added.

The Chief Minister said he would like Prime Minister Narendra Modi to visit Ladakh when he plans his next tour to Jammu & Kashmir state.

Leh is scheduled to host Mega Hemis Mela next year in which nearly two lakh visitors from 76 foreign countries are expected to participate.

Calling unprecedented air fares to Leh as unacceptable, Mufti Sayeed said he will again take up the matter with the Union Civil Aviation Ministry. “We have raised the issue of operating daily flights to Leh from Delhi, Srinagar and Jammu on several occasions. The issue of exorbitant air fares is a matter of serious concern for all of us as it is putting off people from travelling to Ladakh,” he observed, while stressing upon upgrading the facilities at Leh Airport for travellers.

The Chief Minister said he will also take up the issue of opening Leh-Mansarovar Pilgrimage Route with the Central Government to bring about rapid economic development of the region. He also stressed upon bringing about flexibility in procedure for issuance of permits so that tourists are facilitated.

Mufti Sayeed also highlighted the steps taken to improve tourism-related infrastructure at Leh, which includes laying of golf course and establishment of Trans-Himalayan Cultural Centre and Convention Complex.

Earlier, the Chief Minister inaugurated a world-class Tourist Information Centre (TIC), which offers a single window for providing information about places and services of visitors’ interest and activities, including issuance of inner-line permits.

Blend of traditional and modernity, the full-digitized TIC takes the tourists through the history of Ladakh by displaying artefacts in a highly-professional manner. Describing the newly-opened TIC as a model to be replicated at other tourist destinations, the Chief Minister handed over the first e-permits issued to two foreign nationals, Emmanuel of France and Rupert Charles from the United Kingdom.

Minister for Cooperatives, Chering Dorjey, in his address, said Sindhu Festival has done wonders in stretching tourist season in Ladakh. Stressing upon handling the sector professionally, he however expressed disappointment over rising air fares that deter tourists from travelling to this region in large numbers.

Dorjey also demanded a civil airport at Leh to provide fillip to tourism sector, besides improving healthcare facilities to handle emergencies better.

Ladakh is known for its challenging peaks for which mountaineering expeditions, especially undertaken by foreigners, are organized during the summers.

Rigzen Spalbar, in his address, said tourism development of Ladakh will take place only if LAHDC, State and Central Governments work in synchrony. He also called for increasing frequency of flights to Leh and opening of Chanthang and Damchuk areas for adventure lovers, in particular overseas tourists.

Minister for Revenue, Javed Mustafa Mir, and Minister for Education, Naeem Akhtar, MP, Thusptan Chewang, MLA Nubra, Deldan Namgail, Executive Councillors, LAHDC, Leh, Principal Secretary, Planning, B. R. Sharma, Commissioner/Secretary, Tourism & Culture, Shailendra Kumar, Deputy Commissioner, Leh, Saugat Biswas, former legislator, Narbo Pinto, besides senior officers and a large number of people were present on the occasion.