We have, time and again, been lamenting about the indifferent and even negligent attitude of the Government towards untapped tourist spots like Reasi, Pir Panchal and others but looking to the ground realities, the status quo ante is ruling the roost.
Who does not know the historical and tourist importance of Surinsar – Mansar and Billawar – Duggan areas of Jammu and by that standard, there should have been a focused attention of the Government towards development of these areas but the apathy of the authorities reveals that these areas are not the concern of the Government. Unless a reasonable infrastructure was built in respect of a tourist spot, the same shall continue to remain not accessed by the tourists. Not only this, even such spots in the absence of proper and timely attention, were prone to fall prey to climatic changes, human intervention with intent to overdraw or exploit commercially and hence leading to their existential threat.
It was a nice idea to have Government meetings, conferences, exhibitions, seminars etc at such places to accord to them due recognition and a care on continuity but how many such events, in fact took place remains a million dollar question. Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had chaired the Governing Body meeting of Surinsar – Mansarand Billawar Duggan Tourism Development Authorities last year and had issued directions for upping the pace of works at these tourist destinations. As usual, the ongoing works are going on at the snail’s pace and under one or the other pretext, the time frames are jumped.
It is a matter to be rued that Surinsar does not have budgeted accommodation even for a small group of tourists let alone hosting series of meetings, conferences and events. Surinsar area is a testimony of utter neglect. Known for its grace and majestic look, it is gasping for survival. Can it be explained that at Surinsar,there is lone Dak Bungalow housing just three bed rooms but lacks facilities of a comfortable stay of tourists. The year 2013 saw some movements around for providing budgetary accommodation under one of the Centrally Sponsored Schemes but due to procrastinating response by the concerned authorities, no progress could be made. The Government took its own time till the Central Government bid adieu to the scheme itself.
The fate of Surinsar Park and the Amphitheatre etc remained confined to the papers only and travelled never beyond that point. The Amphitheatre is inoperative and idle because the electric works have not been undertaken. Tenders are floated but there is poor response. Hypothetically assuming if somehow, the theatre got ready after some time, it will still be of no utility because tourists cannot be motivated to stay longer or extend their stay because there is no accommodation facilities.
The fate of the decisions in respect of Billawar – Duggan Tourism Development Authority is no better.No substantial progress on decisions in respect of eco- friendly huts, mud huts, adventure spots etc is seen around.
We urge the Government to initiate steps to make recreational facilities and accommodation with boarding integrated part of tourism to incentivize and encourage tourists to visit a spot and Surinsar- Mansar cannot be an exception. In this competitive world, a tourist is sovereign in that he or she can exercise options and choice to choose the one with good accommodation, recreation, good food and other facilities. Tourism is fast becoming competitive. We in Jammu and Kashmir cannot ignore this cardinal fact.