J&K very slow in implementing tourism projects: GoI
Srinagar, Feb 17: J&K has been slow in implementing the tourism projects for which the government of India has granted Rs 115 crore under the Prime Minister’s Development Package in 2015. Official documents accessed by The Kashmir Monitor reveal that the state has only made use of Rs 19.43 crore, so far. “Implementation of work-on-site is very slow despite repeated follow-up by the Union Ministry of Tourism (MoT),” the documents from government of India show. The documents show that the state has “failed to submit the Utilisation Certificates for at least four projects, which, eventually, has halted the release of next installment of funds”. Under PMDP, the MoT agreed to a package of Rs 2,000 crore for “developing J&K as one of the topmost tourist destinations”. Starting 2016, the money was supposed to come in Rs 400-crore tranches each year for the next five years. The snail-paced implementation by the state, however, choked the flow of the funds and is likely going to stretch the project’s 2020 deadline. The state was supposed to work on developing and upgrading facilities alongside several tourist circuits that covered almost the entire J&K. One such circuit covered ‘Jammu-Rajouri-Shopian-Pulwama’, a Rs 96.38-cr project, on which the state, until end of 2017, has spent only Rs 6.46 crore out of the released Rs 19.28 crore. Similarly, another Rs 96.39-crore ‘Anantnag-Kishtwar-Pahalgam-Daksum-Ranjit Sagar dam circuit’ saw the state spending nothing from the released Rs 19.56 crore. Another crucial project involved the integrated development of tourist facilities at Gulmarg-Baramulla-Kupwara-Leh circuit. It, too, saw zero expenditure. The reasons for the delay have been slow tendering in a few of these projects. In others, the J&K government has not handed over the sites to NPCC and NBCC – the two Central PSUs that the state signed MOUs with, and which were going to execute some of the tourism projects. Apart from the two, J&K Tourism Development Corporation and J&K Cable Car Corporation were supposed to execute some of the projects. Sources in the state’s Tourism Department say most of the department work hovers around organising tourism events and trips to other states for press meets or seminars. “These projects were crucial since they intended to develop the basic infrastructure and facilities along tourist destinations. The department is working in reverse, it should first develop the facilities and then engage in tours asking tourists to visit Kashmir,” sources said. Director Tourism Kashmir, Mehmood Shah, claimed that most of the projects that he was looking after were “going on”. “I am undertaking flood-related projects. Restoration of Char Chinari, Sona Lank, Zabarwan Park and the like are going on,” he said. He, however, refused to comment on the larger state picture, claiming it was not under his domain. Secretary Tourism, Sarmad Hafeez, did not respond to calls made by this reporter. Minister Tassaduq Mufti, who was given Tourism portfolio in December, too refused to comment on the matter.