Better and wider perspective of tourist industry in the State is on the anvil. Firstly more tourist destinations are identified in all the three regions of the State. Secondly, the very content of tourism is re-designed. Previously, tourism in Kashmir essentially remained confined to verdant spots with lush green environs and stream of pure and fresh water tossing down the mountain and running across the meadows, densely forested mountains and tall trees etc. formed the essential component of a tourist destination. Pure air and water were great attractions for tourists especially coming from the hot plains of India. It is in this context that Pahalgam and Gulmarg became the world renowned natural spots of tourism in Kashmir. About Jammu region, for a very long time not much interest was evinced in any tourist spot in this region although some spots were known and were visited by tourists randomly.
However, as times have changed, tourism has changed and expanded its content and context. Historical sites both past and present are also becoming destinations of interests where we see the tourist footfall now.
In fact the Union Ministry of Tourism has been evincing keen interest in developing and expanding tourist industry in Jammu and Kashmir. It has proposed four Tourist Circuits in Jammu and Kashmir at the cost of Rs 387.51 crores covering all three regions of the State to exploit tourism potential in many unexplored areas. Four Tourist Circuits approved by the Union Ministry of Tourism for Jammu and Kashmir at the cost of Rs 387.51 crores included Mantalai-Sudhmahadev-Patnitop, Gulmarg-Baramulla-Kupwara-Leh, Anantnag-Pahalgam-Daksum-Ranjit Sagar Dam and Jammu-Rajouri-Shopian-Pulwama. The Government has started work on two Circuits and would be taking up two remaining Circuits shortly.
This circuiting of tourist destinations is rational in the sense that it brings the entire three regions within the purview of tourist expansion schemes. In particular, the plans envisage tourist destinations in various parts of Jammu region like Rajouri, Poonch and the Mughal Road. At the same time it also takes care of some new destinations in Ladakh region which is fast emerging as a choice destination of foreign tourists. Creating tourist circuits is far better planning than sticking to isolated destinations. We are of firm opinion that tourism can be an important factor in strengthening the economy of the State because it is an industry that provides employment to many people. Therefore, restricting it to few houseboats owners or hoteliers is not the right policy. Once the scheme of circuit developments is taken up it will also bring in road and transport areas which means that the Government will pay more attention to the maintenance of roads that lead to tourist destinations and systematize transport along these roads. We think that the day when railway is brought to Rajouri and Poonch, it will give a great boost to tourism in Jammu region.
While appreciating the new approach of the Government to the area of tourism we express our dismay on Government allocating very small amounts for the new tourists’ circuits in Jammu and Ladakh regions in comparison to circuits to Valley region. There has to be a rationale for making allocations and we believe that new destinations within the Jammu and Ladakh circuit deserve to be treated frugally and with a large heart. The Government should reconsider the amount of grants allocated to the circuits in two regions and thus prove it is handling the business with equitable dispensation.