Way back in 2014, the then Minister of Forests made an announcement that the Government had decided to set up a zoo in Jammu which would serve additional source of entertainment to the tourists and the local people. The commitment was repeated by subsequent Forests and Wildlife Ministers in and outside the Assembly. Some preliminary steps were taken by way of beginning the work. The important task of identifying the land was fortunately done and 5000 kanals of land was selected at Khanpur in Nagrota area of Jammu. Detailed Project Report was prepared and approved by the Central Zoo Authority because permission from that Authority is mandatory. The project was estimated to bear an expenditure of 120 crore rupees. The Minister of Forests and Wildlife released an amount of 2 crore rupees from the departmental budget in anticipation of funds to be raised for the project. With 2 crore rupees released, some earthwork and raising of wall and other minor works were completed. The project is an ambitious one and by what the blue print suggests a very modern project. It envisages facilities like eco-park, wildlife enclosures, bird sanctuary with large number of species from the world around, herbal park, cafeterias, facilities of public utilities, parking spots and other things which are available in the national level zoos across the country.
However, all this notwithstanding, the shocking part of the story is that so far no source has been identified from where an estimated amount of 120 crore rupees would be obtained. The Forests and Wildlife Department cannot raise this amount and we are told that they would be approaching various sources like the Departments of Tourism and Finance to fund the project. This is really shocking. How come the project was announced without funds in hand or sources that would come to the help of the Wildlife Department. Now there is murmur in this department to submit a request to the Central Zoo Authority to support the project. Whether that source is in a position to make any commitment or not is not clear. The point is that even the Finance Minister while presenting the budget for the financial year 2016-17 had reiterated that funds would be provided for the project.
People abhor irresponsible announcement and impracticable commitments made by the ministers and public men. Now, they understand very well that these are all election antics of these leaders and they have no qualms of conscience when they betray the trust which people repose in them. Our democracy is beset with many drawbacks and infirmities like this and we shall have to be careful of not falling in the trap of leaders who are trying to disrupt our hard preserved democratic process. This all is the result of absence of accountability. We know that almost same is the fate of some more projects like Patnitop Ropeway, Mantalai, artificial lake on Tawi, Mahamaya Ropeway etc.