` 800 lakh project for development of picnic spots along Mughal Road Centre to fund Spiritual, Sufi, Buddhist Circuits in J&K from FY 12-13: Jora

By Mohinder Verma
JAMMU, Mar 26: Realizing the importance of pilgrim tourism, the Union Government will start funding three mega circuits—Spiritual Circuit for Jammu, Sufi Circuit for Kashmir and Buddhist Circuit for Leh from the next financial year beginning from April 1. Moreover, ` 800.15 lakh worth project for development of tourism spots along the historic Mughal Road is also expected to be sanctioned during the first quarter of the next financial year.
This information was provided by the Minister for Tourism and Culture Nawang Rigzin Jora while replying to the discussion on the grants of his departments in the Lower House of State Legislature.
“The State is a tourist as well as pilgrim destination and pilgrim tourism is playing an important role in the development of the economy of the State”, Mr Jora said, adding “large number of pilgrims/ devotees from all parts of the country visit the famous religious places like Shri Mata Vaishnodevi, holy cave of Amarnath Ji, Shiv Khori, Shahdara Sharief and other famous religious places which give a boost to the economy of the State”.
Stating that pilgrim tourism has become a very important product area under the sector, the Minister said that arrival of pilgrims to Shri Mata Vaishnodevi has reached 101.15 lakh during 2011 and that of Shri Amarnath Ji Yatra to 6.34 lakh, adding even the Shivkhori is emerging as another major destination with 15.14 lakh arrivals recorded in 2011.
“The other shrines and monasteries are also visited by devotees in large numbers throughout the State. There are number of shrines which are visited by lakhs of people during the festival days resulting in lot of economic activity for the locals throughout the year in general and during festive days in particular”, he said, adding “though Tourism Department has approved a scheme –Development of Pilgrim spots under the State Plan yet allocation for the same remains too meager vis-à-vis number of pilgrim places”.
Realizing the importance of pilgrim tourism of the State, the Union Ministry of Tourism has agreed to sanction three mega circuits—Spiritual Circuit for Jammu, Sufi Circuit for Kashmir and Buddhist Circuit for Leh, at a cost of ` 50 crore each, Mr Jora said, adding “the Union Government would start funding the projects from 2012-13 financial year”.
For the Spiritual Circuit, the Detailed Project Report has been prepared and is being sent for technical vetting before submission to the Union Tourism Ministry. Similarly, the DPR of the Sufi Circuit is under preparation and that of Buddhist Circuit has been submitted to the Union Ministry.
The Minister informed that keeping in view the historical and tourism importance of Mughal Road connecting twin border districts of Rajouri and Poonch with the Kashmir valley, the Union Tourism Ministry is also likely to sanction ` 800.15 lakh worth project for the development of picnic spots along the road during the first quarter of the next financial year.
Since there are numerous locations along the Mughal Road which have potential to attract tourists both domestic and foreign, the State Tourism Department in the recent past conceived a project costing ` 800.15 lakh for creation of way-site amenities and development of picnic spots from Buffliaz up to Shopian, he said.
“The project has been prioritized by the Union Tourism Ministry and is expected to be sanctioned during the first quarter of 2012-13 financial year”, he said, adding “the virgin tourist spots along the historic Mughal road came to the light during the car rallies organized by the Tourism Department during the last two summers”.
About Nowshera to Buffiliaz, Mr Jora said, “two Development Authorities—one each for Rajouri and Poonch—have already been engaged in the creation of infrastructure related to tourism and stretch of Mughal Road from Nowshera to Buffiliaz also falls in the jurisdiction of these authorities”.
“A circuit development project for Jammu-Poonch-Rajouri has already been sanctioned by the Union Tourism Minister at a cost of ` 688.01 lakh”, he said, adding “an amount of ` 483.73 lakh stands spent on the construction of wayside amenities at Bhambla and Yatri Niwas at Rajouri. The construction of TRC at Dhani Dhar Fort Rajouri and way side amenities at Bufflian Poonch are likely to be completed during the current year”.
Saying that year 2011 has been the year of making history in terms of surpassing all previous records of receiving tourists and pilgrims in the State, he said that conducive atmosphere has made European Countries start considering withdrawal of negative travel advisories. The Germany has already withdrawn the travel advisory.
“Peace during the last year has given fresh impetus to the tourism activities in the State be it leisure or adventure tourism in the Valley and Ladakh or pilgrim arrivals to Shri Amarnath Ji and Shri Mata Vaishno Devi shrines”, he said, adding Kashmir valley received the highest ever number of 13.14 lakh tourists which was 79% higher over the previous year. Ladakh also witnessed an unprecedented increase in arrivals in 2011 which were 1.79 lakh, 136% more than previous year.
The Minister said that the Government has drawn a futuristic strategy for further growth of tourism sector, adding strategy drawn broadly includes development of infrastructure through public investment and by extending incentives for enhancing private investment, focused and regulated development of major tourist destinations by Tourism Development Authorities, promotion of the State’s USPs with a proactive publicity campaign, development of tourism product areas like heritage, adventure, golf, convention, pilgrim and eco-tourism, regulation of tourist trade for tourist facilitation and capacity building of local youth.
The Minister said that for development of tourism sector in the State, the Centre has so far sanctioned 117 projects costing ` 400 crore under Destination and Circuit Development Schemes. Out of these, 52 projects costing ` 186 crore have been sanctioned in the last three years. He said till date 47 projects have been completed out of which 40 have been completed during the last three years.
He said approval for restoration and conservation work on three buildings of Mubarak Mandi Heritage complex estimated at a cost of ` 25 crore is expected to receive soon from the Centre.
Mr Jora said that to extend holidays of visiting tourists and pilgrims new tourists spots are being developed and infrastructure is being created, adding that in this regard tourism ring corridors are being developed especially in Jammu division.
He said in Jammu division Lakhanpur-Sarthal-Bani- Basohli, Bhaderwah-Kishtwar-Sinthen-Anantnag and Jammu Rajouri Poonch Tourist circuits are being developed at an estimated cost of ` 24 crore to divert the pilgrim tourists towards these spots.
He said Sudhmahadev pilgrim site would also be developed, adding that beautification work on Tawi river banks at Lake View is also being taken up. He said cable car project from Mubarak Mandi Palace to Bahu Fort would be taken up soon. He said Border Tourism Development in Jammu division is also on focused attention of the Government.
The legislators, who took part in the discussion on grants, include Nazir Ahmed Gurezi, Harshdev Singh, Nizam-ud-Din Bhat, Mohammad Sharief Niaz, Master Lal Chand, Hakeem Mohammad Yaseen, Dr Sheikh Mustafa Kamal, Jugal Kishore, Rafi Ahmed Mir, Er Abdul Rashid, Krishen Chander Bhagat, Ashwani Sharma, Jagdish Raj Sapolia, Abdul Haq Khan, M Y Tarigami, T Namgyal, Ashok Kumar, Charanjit Singh, Mir Saifullah, Peerzada Mansoor Hussain, Abdul Majid Wani, Feroz Ahmed, Ch. Mohammad Ramzan, Baldev Raj Sharma and Balwant Singh Mankotia.

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