Address issues of Katra Development Authority

Looking to the present state of affairs in respect of various areas of its functioning, that Katra Development Authority (KDA) appears to have been left to fend for itself will be no exaggeration .In other words, apparently none in the Government appears to be concerned about addressing various issues having crept up in the KDA otherwise needing the requisite and immediate attention of the Government, in particular by Housing and Urban Development Department (H&UDD). The situation has reached this pass, not to mince words, that perhaps the requirement of the KDA was deemed to be optional and deserving to be treated as such by the Government in which the onus, again, to a larger extent is on the H&UDD. However, let the blame squarely not fall on the previous (State) Governments alone, even the present dispensation is more or less adopting the same attitude of being virtually apathetic to the concerns of the KDA. We have been repeatedly hearing about revision of the Master Plan being “in advanced stage” of completion and that the same was slated to be finalised shortly. Had this aspect been attended to by the H&UDD in true spirits of its requirement, much of the work related to the ambitious planned development of the Holy Town and its surrounding villages would have gained ascendency. This revised Master Plan has in its kitty beside others ,parking areas, road linkages, solid waste management project and treatment plants at various locations and the like but apparently all on papers.
The moot question is whether the purpose for which KDA was established 35 years ago viz for ensuring a holistic and planned development of the Holy town and its surroundings has been accomplished or not and what are the precise reasons for lagging behind in achieving the projections made in this regard. It is to be believed that even the periodic meetings to deliberate upon various issues are not convened by the KDA and the last one reportedly was held in early 2020 . We learn that like many UT Departments and other undertakings, Katra Development Authority too is facing the staff crunch due to which host of its assigned activities are not taking place and the concerned H&UDD is not positively responding to various requests and communications from the Katra Development Authority. The manner of how implementation of the Master plan for an area covering 80 square kilometres is planned can be seen by the Government just providing a staff strength of one Khilafwarzi officer and four Gangmen to the KDA. It may be noted that the holy town of Katra , the base camp for the most reverend shrine of Shree Mata Vaishno Devi needs development of all hues and looking to the ever increasing footfall of the pilgrims roughly put at around 60000 per day by the end of 2021 ( COVID related restrictions notwithstanding) not only the need to implementing of the revised Master Plan is imperative but because of increased economic activities, shifting of more people to the town for business and related gainful activities and the ability of the Holy Town to absorb future growth of population – pilgrim, floating and natural – like all pronged development as per the Master Plan do not warrant any more delay in initiating the necessary exercise. At the same time , progress about preparation and implementation of comprehensive zonal development plans and infrastructure development plans too is unknown.
The overall picture would have been more dismal in the absence of the non energizing of the KDA and the resultant non implementation of the Master Plan had there been not the proportionate contribution from the Shrine Board and the Municipal Committee Katra in terms of execution of minor works from time to time. Since vision and the realism have to go side by side , it is to be seen how early the aims and objectives behind establishing the KDA were realised systematically, to start with, save the town from getting otherwise ”developed” haphazardly, unscientifically and in a messy unplanned manner . That is precisely true of any town with varied prospects centring around ever increasing economic activities . We , therefore, urge the authorities to put the KDA on proper rails to enable it perform as per its objectives and the implementation of the revised Master Plan be taken on priority keeping the overall peculiar sensitivities of the Holy town of Katra in view.