* 80 pc work of barrage, not lake, completed: Minister
JAMMU, Jan 23: Internal fighting in the Ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) today reached the Legislative Assembly, where one of the BJP MLAs, supported by his colleagues, tore off the reply to his question given by the party Minister, alleged complete neglect of Jammu in tourism and staged a walk-out, prompting almost entire Opposition including National Conference, Congress and an Independent to stage walk-out from the House but not before alleging that nothing was being done by the State Government to promote tourism in Jammu.
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti holds the charge of Tourism Department. However, in her absence, Minister of State for Tourism and BJP leader Priya Sethi replied to the question raised by BJP MLA from RS Pura Dr Gagan Bhagat pertaining to development of tourism projects in Jammu. Education Minister and the Government spokesman Naeem Akhter twice tried to save the situation but the Opposition and Independent MLA from Udhampur, Pawan Gupta, managed to take advantage of the situation.
As soon as Priya Sethi finished the written reply, Dr Bhagat was on his feet saying the reply was a total lie and misleading as the Minister’s claim that 80 per cent work has been completed on artificial Tawi lake was far from the reality. He charged that tourism projects of Jammu region including Gharana wetland of RS Pura have been completely ignored by the Government, which was evident from the reply. He demanded that a House Committee should be set up to probe neglect of Jammu and the Minister’s statement that 80 per cent work on Tawi lake has been completed.
Priya Sethi, a nominated MLA of the BJP from Jammu City, strongly opposed the demand for setting up of the House Committee.
BJP State president and MLA Jammu West Sat Sharma ‘CA’ stood in support of his party MLA from RS Pura, Dr Gagan Bhagat and demanded that work on tourism projects in Jammu should be expedited.
Education Minister Naeem Akhter immediately intervened saying the Government reply has said that 80 per cent work was completed on account of Irrigation and Flood Control measures and not entire artificial lake, being constructed in Tawi river.
Later, Priya Sethi also made similar statement.
Not satisfied with the Minister’s reply, an agitated BJP MLA Dr Gagan Bhagat tore off the reply of the question given to him by Priya Sethi inside the House, threw the papers towards the treasury benches and staged an angry walk-out in the House.
Legislative Assembly Speaker Kavinder Gupta rejected Gagan Bhagat’s demand for setting up House Committee, which was repeatedly asked for by the BJP’s RS Pura MLA. The Speaker ruled that the House Committee can’t be set up on every issue.
Within no time, almost entire Opposition including members of National Conference, Congress and Independent MLA Pawan Gupta were on their feet saying several tourism projects were being lingered in Jammu on and the Government was doing nothing.
National Conference MLA from Nagrota Devender Singh Rana and Independent MLA from Udhampur, Pawan Gupta trooped into Well of the House shouting against the Government and alleging that several tourism projects of Jammu have been ignored.
National Conference MLA and former Minister Ali Mohammad Sagar jumped into the BJP’s fight saying it was a “serious issue” as both MLA and Minister belonged to the BJP.
All MLAs from National Conference, led by former Chief Minister and National Conference working president Omar Abdullah and Congress and Independent MLA Pawan Gupta staged a noisy walk-out in the House alleging neglect of tourist projects in Jammu and failure of the Government to project Jammu as an independent tourist destination. They said that the Government has done very little for Jammu region.
Pawan Gupta had heated exchanges with State BJP president Sat Sharma before he staged a walk-out from the Assembly.
Before walk-out, Congress three-time MLA from Gool-Arnas and former Minister Aijaz Khan charged the Government with doing nothing to develop tourist spots in Jammu.
“There is no progress on Tawi artificial lake, Mubarak Mandi heritage complex and development of holy Shiv Khori shrine. The Government has no plan to diversify pilgrim tourists of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi ji shrine,” Khan said.
Priya Sethi, however, countered her saying the Government has identified Jammu for development as independent tourist destination. “We are committed to this,” she said.
National Conference MLA from Nagrota Devender Singh Rana said all tourist spots of Jammu were in shambles. “The Government has done nothing to develop Jhajjar Kotli and other projects,” he regretted.
Congress MLA from Banihal and former Minister Viqar Rasool Wani said there has been no development of tourist spots in `Chenab Valley’, Pir Panjal range and other parts of Jammu. The Government has completely neglected these areas, he lamented.
Speaking to reporters after the walk-out, Independent MLA from Udhampur Pawan Gupta said: “the reply given by the Minister was vague and incorrect and the figures were totally false (with regard to lake project). Are we blind? Can’t we see the fate of the project? The Government tried to fool us,” he said.
Devender Rana told the reporters outside the House that the Government is completely ignoring Jammu and the tourist destinations.
He said the ‘voice of Jammu is being suppressed’ by the PDP-BJP Government, adding, “Jammu is being discriminated under well planned conspiracy.
” BJP has surrendered before the ruling PDP, which has no interest in Jammu,” Rana said.
Areas like Sanasar, Mansar, Jhajjar Kotli are being neglected, he said and added that the day BJP had alliance with PDP, they surrendered at Jammu’s cost.
“Today’s walkout is not only to protest Jammu Tourism but the discrimination with the region on different developmental projects. This walkout reflects the voice of Jammu people in the House,” Rana said.
“It is not only the fate of one lake project, it is fate of all the tourism projects in Jammu region, be it Mansar- Surinsar Lake project or Patnitop project or Sanasar, all projects are in bad shape and work has been stopped,” Rana added.
Minister for Education, Naeem Akhter who tried to save situation for the coalition Government inside and outside the Assembly, told reporters later that the artificial lake in Jammu is an integrated project being executed by the Irrigation & Flood Control Department, Housing and Urban Development Department and the Tourism Department.
Akhter, who is also official spokesman of the State Government, said the Jammu artificial lake is a multi-phase project involving several departments and the executing agencies.
He said in the Phase-I, work on design and construction of barrages across river Tawi near Belicharana, Jammu, which is part of artificial lake was taken up for execution by the Irrigation & Flood Control Department at an estimated cost of Rs 69.70 crore, against which Rs 57.35 crore stand released/utilized by ending March 2016.
He said 31 barrages are to be constructed by the Irrigation and Flood Control Department on river Tawi near Belicharana as part of the artificial lake project.
He said out of these 20 barrages are to be constructed on Nikki Tawi and 11 barrages on Baddi Tawi.
“While 11 barrages on Baddi Tawi stand fully completed and gated, the gates for 20 barrages constructed on Nikki Tawi are ready and shall be installed soon,” Naeem said adding this amounts to 80% physical and financial progress of the works on the project which are to be executed by the Irrigation and Flood Control Department.
The Minister said in the Phase-II of the artificial lake project, the beautification and embankment works are to be taken up under Tawi River Front Development Project for which MoU has already been signed by Jammu Development Authority (JDA) with the Sabarmati River Front Development Corporation (SRFDC) and a Detailed Project Report (DPR) has been prepared in this regard.
“Work on Phase-II would be taken up for execution soon,” he said and added it also involved diversion of around 14 sewage channels presently draining directly into river Tawi.
“These sewage channels are to be diverted to ensure pollution free water flows into the artificial lake,” the Minister said and added that a comprehensive action plan has been worked out by the Housing and Urban Development Department in this regard.
The Minister said that in addition beautification works are also to be carried out along the banks of the river Tawi by the Tourism Department and as part of the beautification project, a park was inaugurated by former Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed in the area in 2015.
The Minister reiterated the Government’s commitment to develop Jammu as an independent tourism destination for which, he said several flagship projects area apace in varied sectors.
The Minister accused the Opposition of raising rhetorical noises over non-existent issues as, according to him, they have failed to act as a responsible and responsive opposition.
Priya Sethi told reporters the project has three components to be set up. “One is the work on design and construction of barrage across Tawi river, second is the beautification of embankments and third is diversion and treatment of sewerage channels that fall into Tawi and pollute it”.
One part of the project is construction of barrage, whose work has been completed by 80 per cent, not that of an entire project, she clarified.
Hitting out at the previous National Conference-Congress Government, Sethi said it did not take into consideration the pollution caused by sewerage channels falling into the river which is worshipped in Jammu.
They did not create any project to treat sewerage water or divert the channels, she said, adding that this Government is going to make detailed project reports for the same.
She also took a dig at NC and Congress members for creating a “false” impression of delay in the project. She said credit goes to the present Government for ensuring beautification of the banks of Tawi by proposing to set up Sabarmati-type river fronts.
The project of the lake has been upgraded by integrating other aspects by this Government. The projects of sewerage channels and beautification are being dealt by Housing and Urban Development Ministry, she said.
“Tourism department, which I deals with, has the least liability in the project,” she added.
Earlier, replying to a question of Gagan Bhagat inside the Assembly, Priya Sethi said work on the design and construction of barrage across Tawi river at Belicharana in Jammu, which is part of artificial lake, has been taken up for execution by Irrigation and Flood Control Department.
She said the execution of the work is estimated to cost Rs 69.70 crore against which an amount of Rs 57.35 crore stands released and utilized by end of March 2016. Eighty per cent of the work has been completed, she added.
“Today’s walkout is not only to protest Jammu Tourism but the discrimination with the region on different developmental projects. This walkout reflects the voice of Jammu people in the House,” NC MLA Devender Singh Rana told reporters here.
“It is not only the fate of one lake project, it is fate of all the tourism projects in Jammu region, be it Mansar- Surinsar Lake project or Patnitop project or Sanasar, all projects are in bad shape and work has been stopped,” he said.
Minister of State for Tourism, Priya Sethi today told the Legislative Assembly various initiatives have been to boost tourism activities in Jammu region. She said multiple potential tourist destinations have been identified in the region and simultaneous work is underway on various fronts to bring Jammu up as a prime independent tourism destination besides extending the existing religious tourism circuit in the region.
Replying to a question by Dr Gagan Bhagat, the Minister the house that the work on Design and Construction of barrage across river Tawi at Belicharana, Jammu, which is a part of Artificial Lake project has been taken up for execution by Irrigation & Flood Control Department at an estimated cost of Rs 69.70 crore, against which an amount of Rs 57.35 crore stands released/utilized by ending March, 2016 and 80 per cent of the work has been completed.
Priya said famous Gharana Wetland Conservation Reserve has been notified under Section 17(I) of J&K Wildlife Protection Act 1978 as Wetland Reserve by the Forest & Wildlife Department. For the beautification of surrounding of Lake Gharana, a project has been formulated on the pattern of modern village involving a budgeted cost of Rs 10.55 crore.
Giving details of various developmental initiatives taken for the promotion of tourism in Jammu province, Priya Sethi said the holy Shrine of Baba Chamlayal at Ramgarh, Vijaypur on Indo-Pak border has already been developed by the Department with Central financial assistance of Rs 159.61 crore. The main components of the project are Tourist Reception Centre, Amphitheatre, Ceremonial Postage sitting for public and development of pond and tiling etc. Besides, the Tourism Department has taken up various works for development of Baba Chamlayal and Baba Sidh Goria and Purmandal under state plan, which are at different stages of completion, said the Minister.
Regarding the progress of Cable Car Project, Jammu, the Minister said the project comprised two phases. Phase-I from Peerkho (near Mubarak Mandi) to Mahamaya Park having a length of 1137 meters, and Phase-II from Mahamaya Park to Shahabad with a length of 453 meters has been taken up under State plan at a cost of Rs 60 crore. The progress of allied work is underway, said the Minister.
The Minister further stated that the Union Ministry of Tourism has sanctioned a Rural Tourism Project at a cost of Rs 69 lakh for the development of Jhiri Shrine in Marh constituency, wherein several components have been completed. Besides, the construction works of Darshani Deodi, toilets, change rooms, shelter sheds have also been taken up under State Plan at a cost of Rs 80 lakh, said the Minister.
Regarding the promotion of Peer-ki-Gali at Poonch as tourist spot, the Minister informed that a comprehensive project has been sanctioned and taken up for execution under Prime Minister’s Development Package (PMDP) at a cost of Rs 2.40 crore by Union Ministry of Tourism during the current financial year.
In order to extend the stay of tourists visiting Patnitop and Sanasar circuit, the Mantalai-Sudhmahadev and Patnitop are being developed as Independent tourist destinations at a sanctioned cost of Rs 97.82 crore under the circuit “Integrated Development of Tourist facilities at Mantalai-Sudhmahadev-Patnitop circuit”. Under this ambitious programme, the Government will set up a Yoga Centre, wellness spa and Ayurveda complex and open air amphitheatre at Mantalai, tourist cafeteria with hall, convenience centre with lounge at Sudhmahadev and Patnitop.
The Minister also gave details and status of several developmental initiatives which are underway for the promotion of tourism sector in different areas of Jammu division including, Suchetgarh, Akhnoor, Katra, Surinsar, Mansar, Jammu city, Nowshera, Rajouri, Thanda Kahassi, Bhderwah, Baglihar Dam-Pul Doda, Ranjit Sagar Dam, Gulabgarh, Jhajjar Kotli, Panchari, Siard Baba Reasi, Didhra Gold Course, Tata Pani Rajouri, Qilla Dantitop, Loran/Jallian Park, Noori Chamb etc.