Pahalgam is the premier tourist resort of Kashmir. It has a glorious history going back to the days of British rule over India. Then British officers used to visit it and enjoy its unparalleled natural beauty. During the Dogra rule, Pahalgam maintained its pristine purity because during the regime of Maharaja Hari Singh strict rules governing the ecology of Pahalgam were enforced.
However with the passage of time, authorities and especially the Tourism Department began to show signs of lethargy and irresponsibility towards the maintenance of the natural beauty of Pahalgam. Gradually unauthorized structure began to come up without proper authorization by concerned department. A large number of complaints began to pour in. Finally, the Government constituted the Pahalgam Development Authority and entrusted to it the upkeep of the tourist destination. However just handing it over to the PDA was not going to solve the problem of illegal constructions coming up in large numbers. The reason was that Pahalgam being a tourist spot has great attraction for the business community especially the hotwires who know the tact of making huge money out of tourist business. With this land mafia came into being who tried to grab land wherever they could legally or illegally and raise hotels and restaurants. Since many complaints began to pour in and also PIL was filed with the High Court, the court issued orders of stopping all constructions without proper permission from the concerned authorities.
Despite the court order, hoteliers and other business men continued with their unauthorized activities of raising structures. They succeeded in doing so because the authorities of Revenue Department and Tourism Department as well as the police all were hand in glove. This brought total disaster to this once beautiful and prestigious tourist spot. At least 16 villages that exist in the peripheral area of Pahalgam became the target of land grabbers and vandals. Although raising structures in these adjacent villages was not allowed yet illegal activities continued and the ecology of Pahalgam began to suffer immense damage.
What actually happened and has been reported by the Chief Executive Officer of PDA is that during the entire summer of 2016, unrest spread in the valley and the local people of these villages took the opportunity as God-sent and after looting the jungles raised structures in shabby ways thus spoiling the pristine purity of the place. They had become lawless during the days of unrest and even did not spare the staff of PDA without manhandling. The story has been graphically told by the CEO. This is the result of lawlessness when it is allowed to happen.
The question is that in the first place violation of ecological and environmental rules in Pahalgam is not a new story. Complaints have been coming in since long time. Why has the Government been sleeping over illegal activities at a prodigious place? Secondly, why has not the Government filed an FIR against the people who misused the disturbed conditions in the valley and also used violence to stop the Pahalgam Development Authority from conducting its normal duty? Obstruction in the function of Government work is an offence cognizable under law. Why the Government has not started prosecution process against the miscreants and their illegal activates. It appears there is a nexus between the locals who have vandalized the law and the state authorities that are supposed to enforce the law of the land. It is in the fitness of things that cases are filed or even FIRs are lodged and the miscreants are prosecuted. There is a nexus and the need is to break the same. It is all the more necessary because that will serve as deterrent to others who are on the prowl to walk in the footsteps of these miscreants. The court order has to be honoured and implemented in letter and in spirit.