The Bold Voice of J&K

Areas outside Valley with large exploitable pilgrim & commercial tourism potential still ‘beg’ for due attention



Most of the backword and diffcult areas of UT of J&K lie outside Kashmir Valley. These areas do have good pockets / spots worth development as tourist resorts/as regular tourist destinations for summer / winter tourist too. Although the visitors may enroute face a little rough climate during summers in comparison to Kashmir valley but instead these areas are comparatively blessed with more of pilgrimage places near to potential tourist destinations. This way there exist multi dimensional scope for carrying the visitors / likely tourists/ pilgrims in and around areas of Jammu region where a good number of adventure sports as well as cable car projects too could be promoted worth boosting the economy of local areas since inspite of there being some rough areas still a high order pilgrim as well as commercial tourism could be promoted. But that has not meaning fully happen even after 1990.
Even governments of Maharajas of J&K of pre 1947 times , with limited financial resources in hand and primitive technologies available, could still lay / construct/ draft difficult links like (a) The Banihal Cart road (BC Road – the Banihal Tunnel was added by democratic government), (b) Jehlum Valley Road (132 miles connecting Srinagar with Kohala), (c) link with Rawapindi via Uri ( then in Muzaffarabad), (d) Poonch was linked with Uri/ Baramullah/ Valley. (e)Route to Ladakh via Kishtwar- Paddar- Zanskar ( route followed by General Zorawar Singh in 1936/ 1941 when Jammu Raj was in a way part of Lahore Darbar, (f) Bhadarwah was linked with Chamba in Himachal by road and (g) One bridle road connecting Srinagar with Leh via Yojila pass and a pacca road to Gilgit, (h) Bandipur- Galgit road was running over Burzila pass and was 193 miles long it was a bridle road in 1941 and state maintained 165 miles and rest was maintained by the British India government). August 1948 Pakistanis had occupied most of the northern part of J&K State including part of Ladakh and Burzila & Yojila passes. General Thimayya had then planned an offensive and light tanks were carried to Srinagar and from there to Yojila pass at a height of as high as even 11000 ft on the road tracks laid by the earstwhile ruler of J&K and that helped Indian troops to take complete control of Yojila pass.
Where as in Independent India the neglect of the farflung rural areas over last over 55 years was exposed when even the minimum communication infrastructure was found badly missing during February 2005 snow carnage in Doda / Rajouri areas (the real ground situations of some areas were known to the district administration after more than a month).
Rajouri, Poonch, Doda, Kishtwar, Bhaderwah, Udhampur-Reasi, Kathua districts of Jammu region have many cool and pleasant routes and visiting spots but but even after nearly 7 decades of independence there are no workable tourist friendly road infrastructure and facilities for recreation of tourist and for enjoyable stay there. Noappreciable/ notable attention worth making good the shortfall has been paid to these areas even after 2005.A good infrastructure would have been developed with just around Rs.1000-1500 Crs had the areas been duly cared after independence /during earlier times but now incase in 2022a competitive tourism infrastructure & envronment is to be created / developed in areas outside kashmir valley , there may be utmost need to pump in around min of Rs 15000 Cr to 20000 Cr out of the state exchequer in addition to private sector investmentsand that too just in only 4 to 5 years to catch on the lost pace. The locals of the area may have lost over Rs.15000 -25000 crores that they would have earned through direct / indirect means over the years had the business in that area been promoted with improved tourist flow as well better surface communication. Where as, otherwise no real benefit has come to the common people proportionate to thousands of crores of financial assistance extended over the years by Government of India to J&K . The culture of occasional isolated ‘gifts’ of a few tens of crores of rupees has been of no use all these years which could be well read from ‘ventures’ like Kud Mall Road and some thing like Patnitop- Sanasar road rehabilitation jobs that are still spilling over 3 decades or so.
Surely governments of the past like that of Mufti Mohd Sayeed and the Congress- NC Governemnt that followed in 2008 can not be solely blamed for all this.
New Delhi could argue that planning for local infrastructure is the responsibility of State Government . But New Delhi can not deny that the superior civil servants in J&K are from GoI. Central Government Services hold the superior and decisive positions as regards planning and implementation of programmes. SO any short fall as regards assessment of priorities has to be debited to the account of New Delhi as well.
Leads need be taken from the Government of Himachal Pradesh and fellow himachal citizens byJ&K Government as well as the people outside Kashmir Valley to make good the short fall suffered over years.
The local civil society ( outside Kashmir valley),that also has many retired bureaucrats and technocrats, too needto work out and push in proposals for considration / implementation by the government.
How serious and concerned are people of even Himachal Pradesh could be seen from the way they handle huge tourist traffic in so narrow lanes and hilly roads in tourist destinations like Maclodganj, Dalhousie, Dharamsala.
The lack of concern on the part of local governments so far could be well gauzed from the fact that every second day ‘leaders’ talk of Basoli Bani Bhaderwah Chamba track and people have been receiving only statements and no progress on the’ ‘road’ for three decades even after 1990 where even the track from Bani to Bhaderwah is not yet all weather safe for two way traffic.
(The author is Sr Journalist , Analyst J&K Affairs & Social Activist [email protected]).

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