JAMMU, June 23: Though established for promoting tourism in Jammu region in the years 2005 and 2017 respectively, the Development Authorities of Lakhanpur , Sarthal and Bani -Basohli are headless for a long time now.
According to sources, both the two Development Authorities are running on crutches. Besides being without full-fledged Chief Executive Officers (CEOs), they lacked the staff for their proper functioning with the result the developmental works undertaken by them have also been hampered to a great extent.
Sources said the Low Budget building and toilet complex constructed by Lakhanpur -Sarthal Development Authority (LSDA) at Lakhanpur to provide boarding and lodging facilities to visiting tourists as well as Mata Vaishno Devi or Shri Amarnath Ji pilgrims are incomplete though work on them had started about a decade back.
The callousness and non seriousness of Government towards boosting tourism in the area can be gauged from the fact that the Lakhanpur Sarthal Development Authority which was established in year 2005 has not a full-fledged CEO for last about one year and the additional charge of the same is lying with Joint Director Tourism, Jammu.
Moreover, confusion persists over the name of Lakhanpur-Sarthal Development Authority after Government vide an order issued on February 29, 2017 has renamed it as Billawar – Duggan Development Authority, but the tenders and other notifications are still issued on the name of Lakhanpur-Sarthal Development Authority. Besides, there is also confusion over the notification of areas for the Development Authority.
Sources said there is such confusion on the working of the twin Development Authorities that people don’t know about their jurisdiction and the areas notified to be developed by them as tourist or pilgrimage tourist centers. Some important pilgrimage tourist centers of Kathua including Narsingh Dev Temple, Ghagwal, Kathua, Bhagwan Vaishno temple, Ariwan Kathua, Jasrota Fort Rajbagh, Kathua and famous pilgrimage centre of Trali near Ghagwal in Kathua and Tapowan Bhoomi of Jandi Bagh in Hiranagar, Kathua have not been brought under the ambit of any of the two development authorities despite the fact thousands of pilgrims visit there throughout year.
No steps are being taken to develop these religious places as pilgrimage tourist centers to boost the economy of the local people, sources added.
Sources said this indicates the lack of interest by State Government in promoting tourism in the area. Had the buildings of LSDA at Lakhanpur been completed they could be utilized for accommodating the pilgrims of annual Shri Amarnath yatra starting from July 1, this year in the event of closure of track and heavy rush in the holy cave area.
Sources said even the Authority is suffering from shortage of other staff including the ministerial employees to run the routine work.
Presently two buildings of LSDA including multi crore including Low Budget accommodation and Toilet complex is under construction on the bank of Ravi river in Lakhanpur. The Low budget accommodation comprises of a restaurant, Hotel, parking facility, children park and view point. But the work on it as well as toilet complex is incomplete for want of funds.
“The Department has liabilities to pay and it has put it under PIDDD scheme,” said Shokat Ahmed, Joint Director Tourism, who is holding the additional charge of Lakhanpur -Sarthal Development Authority.
Admitting that the name of the LSDA was changed to Billawar -Duggan Development Authority, he said the SRO in this regard is still awaited.
The official sources said that estimated cost of Low Budget Accommodation at Lakhanpur was Rs 3.70 crore and the Department has yet to clear the liability of 1.20 crore. Now it has put the project under PIDDD scheme to clear the liabilities. The proposal has been submitted to administrative Department in Civil Secretariat for approval which is still awaited.
Besides the CEO, many posts of field and ministerial staff are lying vacant in the LSDA for a long time now and the Administrative Department is not bothered to fill up them.
Sources said one building under the name and title travel mart is also being constructed at Lakhanpur at a approximate cost of Rs five crore by Tourism Department. The work on the building was started in 2012-13. Till date Rs 3.09 crore were spent on the building and about Rs 1.55 crore are liability.
Director Tourism, Jammu, Om Parkash Bhagat is hopeful of completing he work on the project by end of this year and alter the same will be outsourced. Sources, however, said that what was the fun of constructing two buildings at an approximate cost of Rs 10 crore at a single place by the two departments which are controlled by the same Administrative Department when the Government had shortage of funds? Instead of constructing the two buildings they should have at least constructed one building over the years which could have been completed and utilized for public service also, sources added.
Sources said the fate of the newly created Bani -Basohli Development Authority (BBDA) is also same. The Authority was created vide Cabinet Decision No 29/2/2017 dated 13/2/ 2017 but till date it has not been posted with a full fledged CEO. The CEO of Mansar , Surinsar Development Authority has been given the additional charge of BBDA in March this year.
Vide the same order the Government had renamed the Lakhanpur -Sarthal Tourism Development Authority as Billawar Duggan Development Authority also, sources said.
Sources said BBDA is also facing shortage of staff. The Government has failed to post a JE to the Development Authority till date while it also faces shortage of ministerial staff.
Reliable sources said that out of 24 Development Authorities functioning in the State only 10 have full time CEOs while the others are running on crutches as their charge has been given to CEOs of other development authorities or senior Government officers.