Abandoned tourist spot thy name is Jhajjar Kotli

Sunny Dua
Nagrota Jhajjar Kotli once popular amongst tourists, especially children for its splendid lawns and a rivulet, Jammu’s nearest most tourist destination Jhahhar Kotli was completely cut off from all sides when four-lane project of National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) made engineers raise road level several feet above ground and build a new highway on columns and beams leaving this natural tourist spot quite inaccessible to the visitors.
This construction not only blocked tourists’ way to the tourist spot but also damaged old road, bridge and even the lawns and cafeteria that used to cater to travellers and tourists.
Today when the new highway is operational and a small stretch of road has been elevated several hundred feet above the ground, no one is ready to restore the popular destination back to its glory. Though the place is still being visited by a chosen few and lawns spread in two decks are reportedly being maintained by department of floriculture yet a lot needs to be done at the spot to facilitate pilgrims, tourists and visitors in a big way. Even though the area stands cut off from main highway, it still possesses great tourism potential.
Most dangerous and unsafe part of this tourist spot is the rivulet that gets flooded during rainy seasons thereby leaving no scope for tourists to escape especially at a time when they are in the middle of stream enjoying their day at the destination. The access stairs to the rivulet are broken and damaged and there are no raised platforms for tourists to escape to in case of floods. This leaves them prone to drowning especially when the rivulet gets inundated due to rains in hills without letting the tourists know about it.
Another unfavourable issue for tourists is lack of any cafeteria at the location. The one available has been converted into a Bar that serves liquor and the city and its people are shy enough to take their families to the place where children are definitely not allowed. A small tuck-shop that was opened near cottages also doesn’t operate leaving visitors high and dry. Then comes the main cottages housed in a single structure which is not only in dilapidated condition but completely damaged and abandoned.
Still worst is that there is no washroom at the spot. Two separate under construction washrooms supposed to be for both genders have been camouflaged with construction material, bushes and wires. On making local inquiry it was revealed that the work has been abandoned for multiple reasons finances being prime due to which the contractor has abandoned the work. So far as potable water is concerned that’s also not available in the garden.
A gardener on the condition of anonymity revealed that motors meant to pump water for watering lawns have not been repaired since ages but he in his personal capacity has managed to get supplies from leaked water pipes of Public Health Engineering (PHE) and that’s how he keeps the lawns green. He said that cottage that houses four to six rooms has been completely abandoned. Furniture and allied articles of the building are all rotting because of water leaking roofs.
Built in the English style verandas of these cottages are today used for cooking by anyone, some beds have been pulled out for sleeping by local caretakers or their staff and building is in bad shape. Another person on the spot revealed that due to some cases being sub-judice, neither the department nor contractor is interested in maintaining the cafeteria or tourist spot to the desire levels where people could throng in large numbers. This is the prime reason why JKTDC is not developing the site since past few years and have virtually abandoned the site without pursuing the matter vigorously for the larger interest of public.
It was revealed that the building was earlier maintained by Public Works Department (PWD) but ever since it was handed over to Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Development Corporation (JKTDC) it’s in bad shape. The cottage having four verandas since has been abandoned its roof is falling apart. Roof of a veranda has already caved in and without paint the wooden structure is also falling apart. Beds, curtains, sofas, upholstery, mattresses and other furniture inside the complex is rotting and is not in a condition to put to use now.
The lawns that the floriculture department is maintaining are however good enough for the visitors to sit and relax but broken benches and scattered trashcans also make the place look shabby. Still weird is that most of the flower beds, drains and corners are dumped with empty liquor bottles and trash. In a way entire Jhajjar Kotli tourist spot has been converted into Bar where people can booze anywhere without any check. This is not only pathetic but also makes many visitors repent having visited the place.
It was also revealed that a small island located at Jhajjar Kotli was with department of tourist which is being developed but so far now just a steel bridge connected the island with mainland has been built. Approach roads on either sides of the bridge are also incomplete due to which tourists cannot reach the island where new facilities are coming up. Similarly, steel grills fixed for protective measure have also not been painted and the entire area wears a shabby look. In totality the nearest most tourist spot that could fetch state good revenue is in shambles.
Still worst is the road and bridge connecting main highway with this tourist spot. Ever since the road has been abandoned very less work is carried out on its repair and similar is the condition of bridge which for most of the time remains flooded with water and mud. A couple of officials of tourism department while expressing their ignorance about the ongoing projects also revealed that since the place is not visited by many, department too is not taking it seriously.
“Though some works are going on but latest status is also available with engineering wing which some sources added are in constant conflict with contractors thereby slowing down the pace of work at the site”, the officials on the condition of anonymity said. This spot was once most favoured destination of people travelling from Jammu to Srinagar but ever since elevated four lane highway has been constructed its virtually been dumped.
The road that leads to Shri Mata Vaishno Devi University from main highway connects this road but its poorly being maintained. Without parapets, perennial landslides and craters developed in the middle of road access to the spot has become bumpy. Since this is the only tourist spot with running water available Jhajjar Kotli possesses immense tourism potential provided a single department is made accountable for its development be it department of tourism, JKTDC or PWD but s decision needs to be taken only if Jammu needs such recreational areas to be visited round the clock.