Exploring the unexplored Jammu

Gaurav Gupta
It is agonizing that whenever there is discussion on the beauty of Jammu and Kashmir the unjust approach always rules the roost denying Jammu region the place which it deserves on merit. There is no doubt that Kashmir has all the ingredients which make it one of the best tourist destinations in the country but the spectrum of Jammu’s tourism potential is vast and varied with snow clad mountains, snowy meadows and rivers housing bone chilling waters making just a part of it as it has lot more to offer to anyone who is interested in exploring the nature, places- natural as well as manmade, border tourism, spirituality, religion, colossal infrastructure in power sector, eco-tourism, agriculture, horticulture, sericulture, Pashmina weaving, world famous Basohli arts, one of the most efficient canal network for irrigation of fields touching the plains far and wide, cuisines of various ethnicities, customs, clothes, lifestyle and the never ending list. It is however, a tragedy that the region faced prejudice of regimes which showed complete indifference for years together in an attempt to banish which otherwise should have been promoted to remain here till eternity. Anyhow, the attempts got thwarted and the Jammu region’s mystique is glimmering with more radiance than ever although the numbers of visitors to this land to shower praises are not so promising as the aforesaid prejudice dented the efforts which were already half-hearted and directionless due to scattered destinations and lack of focus. Tourism potential in Jammu Region is seamless but is scattered in all the ten districts. Besides traditional tourist destinations, Suchetgarh border, Tawi River front and Jambu Zoo are the latest additions which will soon become first choice of visitors. If propelled properly, the flight of Udhampur, Patnitop, Poonch and Rajouri can be real high as the famous healthcare tourism destinations in Jammu region due to promising climatic conditions and serene environs. If government will pay a little focus it can develop Bani, Basohli and Mantalai on the lines of Jim Corbett Park in Uttarakhand for promoting eco-tourism. Besides, adventure tourism has a lot of scope in Jammu region with river rafting and paragliding taking the lead. Talking about Jammu’s capability of producing 15,000 MW power, it can be said that the full potential is not unraveled yet as on today only 3,504 MW of power is being produced although it is expected that in the next four years it may be doubled upto 7,000 MW power. It is highly laudable that the government of India has initiated three mega power projects in J&K including Rattle hydroelectric power project, 850 MW in Kishtwar, Kiru hydroelectric power project, 624 MW in Kishtwar and Sawalkot power project of 1856 MW in district Ramban. The cumulative power generation after completion of these projects in the coming 4 years will touch 7000 MW power. It is however a different story that despite this people of Jammu region are facing huge power scarcity. It is sad that the government is a bit slow in tapping the energy potential of the Jammu region and that of Kashmir as well otherwise J&K can produce over 15,000 MW of power to end the dearth in the UT and can also give a lion’s share to northern grid to have extra earnings. It is the need of the hour that Government should go for small hydro projects of 25MW for micro and mini business entrepreneurs in the Jammu region on the banks of rivers. This can also solve the unemployment crisis.
There is lot of scope in medicinal plants in the Shivaliks and a herbal garden on the lines of Ooty in Tamil Nadu can become a major tourist attraction and spot fit for shooting of films. Vineyards and wineries can be a good occupation for those currently incurring losses on traditional crops years after years thus enhancing scope of socio-economic development. Landscapes along Dhar road are the fittest land chunks for vineyards and can be developed for producing finest wines in the country. Another olive branch as far as scope for socio-economic development is concerned is the Chenab Basin including Kishtwar, Doda and Ramban. Interestingly, olive oil production and manufacturing can become a major economic booster in the region if the Government starts paying little attention. Another good news for those who want to invest in business in Jammu is the scope for English willow as many areas in Jammu region have similar terrain as was the case of UK and can be made hub of English willow production by taking small initiatives and training the people. Kishtwar, Poonch, Reasi and Rajouri are few districts which can change the course of people by investing in this sector.
Sapphire industry can have a big scope in Kishtwar but hegemony of lopsided politicians never allowed this place to explore its real potential. A big industry can be established here in the coming times promoting gems and jewellery across the world giving name and fame to Jammu and only Jammu.
Horticulture is another fruitful business which can transform the economy of the region if the real potential of growing fruits be explored without any prejudice. Jammu region can produce varieties of apple, walnuts, cherry, strawberry, mango, litchi and many other seasonal fruits which are in great demand and can help the orchardists to earn handsome amount of money after getting good yield. The organic farming is a new trend in vogue these days and places which are 5000 ft above the sea level have huge scope of such products. Ramban, Poonch, Rajouri, Basohli have the potential to try hand in this form of farming and get high returns by exporting the products to states like Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, UP, etc. If the Government will take little interest in these issues there is every chance that Jammu will emerge as an independent tourist destination having all the charms for the visitors and plenty of facilities making it favourite destination of all seasons. The Government must take adequate measures to develop the all tourist spots in all the districts of Jammu region right from Bani-Basohli to Ramban, Poonch and Rajouri districts. Small tourist spots like Latti, Dudu, Pancheri, Basantgarh, Dagantop, Sarthaltop, Sinthan Top, Budha Amarnath, Loran, Sangaldan, Bani, Sarthal and many more have huge potential to attract crores of tourists if the Government brings them on the tourist circuits as these places remained unexplored in the last 70 years.
(The author is Secretary General CCI Jammu)