Facing flak from the Parliamentary Panel for the unsatisfactory progress on the works in respect of two major schemes of the Union Tourism Ministry, the concerned state authorities seem to be looking the other way. The panel, comprising 10 members of Rajya Sabha and 21 of Lok Sabha, has recommended gearing up of the work to meet the timelines and avoid cost overshoot. It may be noted that several projects and circuits were sanctioned in 2015 for Jammu and Kashmir under two major schemes by the Union Ministry of Tourism titled PRASAD and Swadesh Darshan. “PRASAD” stands for Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual Augmentation Drive and is aimed at bridging the infrastructural gaps between the required and the existing ones while Swadeshi Darshan is aimed at ensuring integrated development of theme based tourist circuits. Both the schemes were designed to be implemented in the “mission mode”.
Under “PRASAD” scheme, a project for development of Hazratbal Srinagar was sanctioned on Dec 28, 2016 at a cost of Rs. 42.02 crore and against this, an amount of Rs.19.23 crore, almost 50 percent, was released to the concerned executing agency of Jammu and Kashmir. However, only 15 percent progress could be registered by the executing agency so far despite elapsing of more than one year. The views of the Union Tourism Ministry that the project was going on at the planned pace and with the required gusto, are not fully endorsed by the Parliamentary panel which has recommended gearing up of the work to meet the time schedule and to avoid cost escalation.
Jammu and Kashmir State had been sanctioned five projects under Swadeshi Darshan Scheme – Himalayan Circuit during the financial year 2016-17 but excepting one, the work on other projects is not found up to the satisfaction of the Parliamentary Panel as mentioned in its report. Under Integrated Development of Tourist Facilities at Gulmarg, Baramulla, Kupwara, Leh , Himalayan Circuit Theme sanctioned at a cost of Rs.96.93 crore , less than 20 percent progress has been registered by the concerned executing agencies. Similarly, under Integrated Development of Tourist facilities at Mantalai – Sudhmahadev Patnitop Himalayan circuit Theme, again, less than 20 percent progress has been achieved so far.
Appraising the work progress on these important tourist related projects going at an unsatisfactory pace, it is beyond one’s comprehension as to why the works cannot be completed well within the reasonable time limit as the basic support structure, that of finance, is well assured and State should have no problem on that count. Tourism is a major engine of economic growth in this state and provides employment to thousands of people and has the inherent potential to create and expand the employment opportunities mat. Not only that, from the unskilled to the skilled, the most specialized to the self employed, it has the tremendous potential. It has to be underlined that intensifying pace of work is, therefore, imperative not only to complete the projects within the stipulated time but to avoid cost overruns. Enhanced or escalated costs result into demand for extra allocation and subsequently lead to delays in completion of the projects.
Same is the picture about Integrated Development of Tourist facilities at Jammu- Rajouri- Shopian- Pulwama Himalyan Circuit Theme and, again, so far as same facilities on Anantnag – Kishtwar- Pahalgam – Daksum- Ranjit Sagar Dam Himalayan Circuit Theme are concerned, the Union Tourism Ministry has not provided exact percentage of progress . It has only conveyed the Panel that progress on these two components range between 30 percent and 50 percent.
However, the silver lining in the darker clouds has been noticed in respect of Integrated Development of Tourist facilities under construction of assets in lieu of those destroyed in floods in 2014 under the Prime Minister’s Development package. That, however, should not make the state machinery any complacent since the panel has expressed displeasure over delays and accordingly recommended gearing up of work so that the projects could be completed within the stipulated time- frame. The State Government is required to take keen interest in monitoring the work progress on a continuous basis.