Srinagar July 5: Identifying tourism as a major thrust area for her party Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) President, Mehbooba Mufti, Saturday said with proper planning it could be a real engine for economic growth of the state and provide enormous employment opportunities.
Addressing a number of meetings in Bijbehara Assembly segment of South Kashmir Lok Sabha constituency, which she won in last elections, she said optimum and sustainable utilization of our resources alone can offer economic self reliance and prosperity to the state. “Unfortunately implementation of the vision rolled out in 2002 by the PDP on tourism, like many other sectors, was not carried forward leading to swelling of the numbers of unemployed and frustrated youth” Mehbooba added.
Mehbooba said Jammu and Kashmir is a unique tourism product which could be leveraged to the benefit of every single individual living here but for achieving that it was necessary to drastically modernize the infrastructure. She said unless we upgrade the infrastructure tourism will remain confined mainly to low spending groups which would be a gross underutilization of our strength and potential.
Regretting that the present government had been unable even to put speed in projects launched a decade back Mehbooba said it was a sad commentary on our being a tourist state that the highway from Srinagar and Jammu remains jammed most of the time. The Srinagar-Qazigund sector that feeds most of the premier tourist destinations remains a challenge for commuters throwing tourists as well as the local population into great discomfort Mehbooba said adding that is no way of promoting tourism.
Mehbooba said new areas identified by the previous government and brought under Tourism Development Authorities have almost been abandoned with a free for all unregulated construction, turning some of them into virtual urban centres or even worse, slums. She said the concretization of Kashmir needs to be reversed, constructions regulated and green areas saved from urbanization.
Mehbooba said a proper land utilization plan will have to be devised and strictly implemented to prevent degeneration of our natural assets and balance the needs for development with requirements of ecology and environment. She said it was almost criminal to let a beautiful place like Kashmir convert into a concrete jungle only because no government has ever gone beyond a superficial approach to major concerns about sustainability of private and government development process. “Corruption at every level is being patronized at the cost of the future of this state and its people, especially the younger generation, which is destroying the scenic splendour of almost every place. That will have to be arrested,” said Mehbooba.
Mehbooba said the PDP has plans to promote eco friendly tourism projects and encourage high end tourism that would bring in much higher returns for same product that at present is virtually sold for peanuts. “Side by side with this human resource development in catering and hospitality sector will be launched in a mission mode so that our youngsters are fully equipped not only to help upgrade the sector within the state but open up opportunities for them outside the state”, she said and added the inherent personality advantages of our youth like their appealing appearance, language proficiency and hospitality tradition can with modern training go a long way in creating a professional pool so essential for reviving Brand Kashmir. Mehbooba said it will be policy of the PDP to encourage local entrepreneurs and investors to setup modern tourist facilities to give boost to the sector.
Mehbooba said one of the major achievements of the PDP led government in 2002 was the dramatic revival of tourism. She said the party had been able to convince the outside world that Kashmir was the same hospitable place, a tourist destination for centuries and our credibility worked even with the NDA government of the time which helped with special packages for hoteliers, house boat owners, boat men and pony owners. On infrastructure front some game changing measures were taken but they couldn’t be carried forward by the succeeding government and fell prey to inefficiency, corruption, political bias and favouritism, she said.
Mehbooba said it is saddening that the people all across the state are still suffering due to lack of basic amenities like quality health care, proper road connectivity, quality education, ration, power etc. “People are suffering on account of shortage of ration items like-food grains, sugar, LPG, Kerosene etc.,” she said adding due to lack of ration at many places the landless families both in rural and urban areas have to suffer more because of the government’s callousness and insensitivity.
Referring to the dismal power scenario she said besides charging huge tariff from the people the government has failed in its duty to provide power to the people. She said all parts of the state are confronting with the bad power supply but the situation is worst in far-flung areas. She expressed concern over the bad condition of roads in entire Kashmir. Mehbooba said pitiable condition of roads present a sad commentary on the performance of this government. She said the government is brazenly sleeping over the matter and is not taking steps to mitigate the people’s problems.
Reiterating the resolve of her party to address the issues of the people Mehbooba said the PDP is committed to overall development of the state and equal share to all areas, regions, sub-regions especially far-flung areas.
On the occasion senior party leader, Abdul Rehman Veeri, MLA, was also present.