J&K Budget & Tourism sector


Er. P.L.Khushu
Terrorism affected Kashmir needs massive development on all fronts, as its economy and economic prosperity are in shambles and peril since the inception of terrorism. So is the case with Jammu which has been hit by a designed aphorism of keeping it underdeveloped with a myopic approach and a biased mind ruler-ship of the erstwhile rulers of Jammu & Kashmir. It has happened ever since 1947, when the great Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession and hand over his majestic ruler ship of Jammu & Kashmir, to the so called democratic pattern of governance, apart from the retardation in its development due to terrorism in Kashmir if not by design, but by default.
After passage of Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Amendment) Act, 2021 in Parliament recently, it transpires that the Government of India has no immediate proposal to restore statehood status to Union Territory of Jammu-Kashmir. Amit Shah the Union Home Minister has given clues that the statehood will be restored at an ‘appropriate time’, though giving no time frame. The ‘Vikas Purush’ in Raj Bhawan, Manoj Sinha, as the Lieutenant Governor of the union territory of J & K , appears to be working very hard to achieve bigger developmental targets for J&K, which suffered a lot for decades due to terrorism and chorus of separatism. It is aimed to fulfill the aspirations and hopes of the people of J & K, thus to restore the lost confidence of the local populace, particularly of the people of Jammu who have been under sufferance for a long time, not by default only due to terrorism in Kashmir, but by design too, due to political and the administrative apathy of the erstwhile politicians of Kashmir. The holding of District Development Council (DDC) elections, formulation of Delimitation Commission to delimit constituencies of the Union Territory of J & K, in accordance with the provisions under Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019-which divided the state into two Union Territories after abrogation of Article 370 in August, 2019, are some of the major decisions in this regard. Regular and consistent efforts seem to be in operation to pace-up development works amply show that the Government of India has a bigger agenda in hand relating to the development cum administrative issues and reorganisation matters, for this union territory, before finally restoring back the statehood to J & K. The present intention of the government of India appears to restore statehood only after development was on track in the Union Territory.
A new Central Sector Scheme for Industrial Development of Jammu and Kashmir- 2021, was announced by the Lt Governor of Jammu and Kashmir recently, when Jammu and Kashmir has been suffering badly on this development side for long. This new industrial policy of J&K is the biggest incentive drive, intending to spend an outlay of Rs.28, 400 Crores on the industrial development of Jammu and Kashmir for next 15 years. As per the plan document, it is expected to generate an investment of Rs. 20, 000 Crore and employment jobs of 4.5 lakh over the plan period. This is the first block-level development project that intends to undertake the process of industrialisation at the very grassroots level using the local resources, skill, and talent available domestically. The policy specifically promises an era of socio-economic development in the region, catering to the aspirations of people of Jammu and Kashmir. The main focus of the policy is employment generation and new investment creation. Self-employment has been proposed as a way to a balanced socio-economic development of J&K. It is assured in the scheme that new investments will be attracted which will end in an organised growth, when equitable development between the two regions of Kashmir and Jammu will be geared-up. The scheme intends to use and train the local skill, talent, and available resources. This industrial policy equally depicts the targets of industrial development while hinting at making investment channels for outside investors open and easy. The creation of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) is also on the agenda of this new policy to focus on backward areas of Jammu & Kashmir, to enhance their industrial viability.
Almost each and every area and segment of the economy of UT of Jammu and Kashmir has been touched by means of various proposals and funds allocation in this budget for the financial year 2021-22, which was presented by the Union Finance in the Parliament as presently there is no legislature in the UT. This budget looks quite encouraging as the key and sensitive issues like tackling unemployment and corruption have been identified as the core growth retarding obstacles, when appropriate focus on such issues is being stressed upon. This year’s budget of the UT is comparatively more than the previous year. It indicates that emphasis is on appropriate development activities in Jammu and Kashmir.
District Development Councils (DDCs) and Block Development Councils (BDCs) have been given due attention. Rs. 10 Crore for each DDC amounting to Rs. 200 Crores in totality has been allotted which if utilised properly should suffice for the new such elected members to focus on a good developmental works of their districts. Rs.25 lakh for each BDC has been provided for and in addition to it, Rs.30 crores have been apportioned for establishment of the DDC and BDC offices. It works out to a figure of an amount of Rs.1610 Crores for the three tier Panchayati Raj institutions, the highest in the history of Jammu and Kashmir so for, which is allocated thus giving enough credence to helpful measures for the basic pancayat level development.
The budget suggests a flip to the education sector for which Rs.1873 Crores are earmarked for spending to develop this core sector of socio educational corridor. Attempts are visualised in this budget in the health sector too. This budget envisages a provision of building of two cancer institute’s one each at Srinagar and Jammu. It also envisages the building of communication roads under CRIF and PMGSY schemes. Ex-gratia allocations of Rs 40 Crores for the corona warriors with setting-up of two new medical colleges at Udhampur and Handwara at a total cost of Rs.325 Crore each have also been proposed in this budget.
Tourism industry which used to be the back-bone of economic corridor of Jammu & Kashmir stands damaged and bruised badly due to terrorism particularly in Kashmir division, along with other vital sectors of agriculture and horticulture are to receive Rs.1.08 Lakh Crores in the budget presented by the Finance Minister in the Parliament. Out of this only an amount of Rs.578 Crores is proposed to be allocated for the tourism sector which is marginally very low and insufficient. The Government of India shall have to augment this allocation significantly, particularly for Jammu division as Jammu has always been divested of its due share in the tourism sector, when enough of tourism development potential is available in Jammu if planned properly. While discussing tourism sector of Jammu & Kashmir, Jammu has a tremendous potential for tourism development and has abundant charming tourist’s spots which could be exploited for the development. But Jammu was repeatedly ignored in this sector of development too, claiming that only Kashmir valley qualified for it, because of its natural scenic beauty. Just a max factor was added to Jammu in this regard like Patnitop tourist spot, Mansar Lake, etc, when huge funds under central government schemes for tourism were utilised in Kashmir mostly.
In this regard it is now a welcome step and gesture for Jammu and its people that the present Lieutenant Governor has initiated positive and pragmatic steps in regard to the development of tourism sector and potential in Jammu. In a major boost to conservation of water bodies and lakes in Jammu region, besides promotion of tourism, Union Minister Dr Jitendra Singh and Lt Governor, J&K UT, Manoj Sinha recently laid the e-foundation of Rs.198.37 Crore centrally funded Mansar Lake Rejuvenation Project. It is going to be second major river rejuvenation project in the Jammu region after Devika which has been framed on the model of prestigious Namami Ganga project as per the statement of Dr. Jitendra Singh. All such appreciating and pragmatic deliberations of the Lt Governor raises high hopes in Jammu for its first preference in this regard as Jammu has repeatedly been neglected in the promotion and development of tourism so far by different governments. But probably this alone is not going to boost the tourism development sector in Jammu, when enough of potential for development is available in Jammu in this regard.
To cite the areas of development in the Jammu division for tourism development, to be taken on priority, it is necessary to make mention of some of the potential locations and areas in this regard. In this regard it is necessary to mention here that if Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Sonamarg are considered as heavens on earth, as far as Kashmir Valley is concerned, Bhadarwah valley is no lesser a paradise as far as Jammu division is concerned. Bhadarwah is a lovely cool valley as the valley of Kashmir. Its perpetual natural beauty and scenic status has made it to be called as ‘Chotta Kashmir’. This Splendid Springing Valley is a beautiful valley situated at a distance of about 200 km from Jammu. If developed to the standard rationale of appropriate tourism standards, it can easily invite the foreign tourists in abundance, particularly for adventure tourism. It has enough potential to cater for recreational tourism for the domestic and local tourists as well. The notable places for tourism development in Bhadarwah are Chinta Valley, Padri, Jai Valley, Seoj Meadow, Bhal Padri etc. Chinta Valley, situated 6500 ft above sea level, is a picturesque valley in Bhadarwah bounded by thick coniferous forests. The valley is surrounded by several tourist spots including Thuba, which is located across the Chinta Nallah.
It is superb location for adventure tourism as also recreational tourism. Padri have beautiful landscapes and lies on the ensuing Bhadarwah-Chamba road at a distance of about 40 Kms from Bhadarwah. The landscape runs in a vast area when it is an ideal location for adventure sports like Snow-skiing in winters and Paragliding in summers. It is also the highest pass on Bhadarwah Chamba road. Jai is a green Valley which lies on the North East of Bhadarwah town about 32 Kms away connected to the town by beautiful Bhadarwah-Jai link-road. Rajouri and Poonch belt is not being projected here for want of space when that route is also very much rich in tourism development.
Jammu region is a famous place having a lot of scope for pilgrimage tourism. Tourists visiting J&K constitute a huge chunk of religious devotees. Sudh Mahadev, Gourikund, Mantalai, Sukrala Mata, Sarthal Mata, Chichi Mata, Budda Amarnath, Shivkhori etc, are the famous religious places in Jammu located in different districts of Jammu. Devotees visit these places throughout the year. Pilgrims facilities like providing of dormitories for pilgrims, overnight stays along with the improvements in the basic infrastructural facilities of standard qualities are required to be provided at all such places to boost and promote the scope of pilgrimage tourism in Jammu, which is essential tourism development.
As far as the established discrimination in the allocation of funds under various heads of accounts for the development of Jammu is concerned along with that of Kashmir, the Government of India shall have to augment additional financial allocations for Jammu specifically under tourism sector for taking up the development of the tourist spots as mentioned above, which will positively make Jammu a competitive tourist location of national and international level. Probably the discrimination with Jammu may partially get balanced.
Similarly, tourism sector, one of the main economic corridors to sustain the living and earning of a sizeable section of the people of the valley is totally in shambles in Kashmir. Biggest damage has occurred to the tourist industry of Kashmir due to terrorism, which was proudly known as the most lucrative economic support to the total economic growth of Jammu and Kashmir and the people involved with it.
A major chunk of the population of the valley, mostly dependent upon the tourism related trade and commerce, particularly the hoteliers, the house boat owners, the tour & taxi operators, the handicraft sector personnel, carpet industry related working hands, their workers and the like are the worst hit for last several decades now.
With enough potential available in this sector in Kashmir division, though mostly identified, the development in this regard needs to be augmented with additional allocations from the central government to make Kashmir a resonant tourist attraction destination, when most of the tourist locations in the valley have very good development authorities at such spots. These authorities need augmentation and activation with additional resources of funds so that these authorities can deliver better and make Kashmir a prime destination of tourism across the globe.
(The author of this article is a chartered consultant civil engineer, who loves his mother land the union territory of Jammu & Kashmir)