Raw deal to Jammu tourism

Tourism is the most important element if not the mainstay of State economy. That is what the Government and the Tourism Department claim. Under this claim, the department seeks fat allocations in the annual budget. Besides, it approaches the Centre for financial support for this or that project going to be executed under the supervision of Kashmir tourism. What the Tourism Department does or does not do is not the subject under discussion. The fact is that by tourism, the Government agencies generally mean tourism in Kashmir and not either in Ladakh or Jammu region. Therefore when allocation of funds is made, the guiding principle with the authorities is tourism in Kashmir valley.
Sine long Kashmir has been projected as the land of abounding natural beauty. This has gone down in the history and is accepted as something like universal truth. In support of this view the famous Persian verse is quoted that if there is a paradise on earth it is here (Kashmir) only. We do not counter the claim that Kashmir has great natural and scenic beauty. But remember there are far more beautiful and scenic places in the world. It is not just the natural and scenic beauty that makes a given place attractive. More important is the contribution of man’s innovation, skill and taste that bring luster to a given place to be called a tourist resort. In that sense our Tourism Department is miles behind.
In the process of self – acclaimed status of Kashmir valley as the mainstay of State’s economy, Jammu and Ladakh regions have been relegated to neglect. This is not acceptable. The populist Governments have usually assured that there will not be discrimination in the development of the three regions but ground realities do not support this claim. The case in point is of the properties of Dhirendra Brahmachari including Aparna Ashram and the land measuring 1002 kanals taken over by Patnitop Development Authority in 2009. Situated at a distance of about 60 miles from the district headquarter Udhampur, at Mantalai in the foothills of  Seoj Dhar near Sudhmahadev, the complex of late Dhirendra Brahmachari commands extraordinary scenic view and has great potential to be the attraction for tourists. It could become most liked hill resort of Jammu region if developed and looked after properly. Its existing infrastructure includes Aparna Hotel and Restaurant, hanger for aircraft, petrol pump, air strip, semi-constructed hotel, cow sheds, personal residence of Swamiji, a double storey building, swimming pool, orchards, zoo, vehicles, bulldozer, road roller, construction equipment etc. Patnitop Development Authority is conspicuous by its mismanagement of Mantalai complex. There is no sign of development and what already existed is in shambles. People of the locality have been bitter on how the Government has left this complex to neglect.
The subject of handling Mantalai complex came up in the previous budget session also.  Some members from Jammu region raised it in the Legislative Assembly and suggested to frame a House Committee for making assessment of the properties and recommend suggestions for the utilization of the infrastructure.  They had even suggested to have International Youth Hostel at this picturesque resort of Mantalai and to promote this place for adventure tourism. All that the Government sources reveal is that a proposal was being prepared through M/s Jones Lang Lasalle Property Consultants  India Ltd, that have been engaged by Ministry of Tourism (GOI) as State level project management agency. This notwithstanding, local people are disappointed at the negligence of the Government in maintaining the complex. They even say that there have been attempts of pilferage of property.
We fail to understand why the Tourist Department has not been keenly interested in the development of this hill resort and why large number of pilgrim tourist is not encouraged to visit this place. Reliable sources say that the State Government has drawn a prestigious Rs 150 crore project for creation of Pilgrimage Circuit in Sudhmahadev-Mantalai area of  Udhampur, Sufi Circuit in Kashmir and Buddhist Circuit in Leh. It is a matter of regret that a vast complex with primary infrastructure in hand and also with tolerable connectivity is not developed to become the primary tourist spot in Jammu.