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`Lifting communication gag prerequisite for tourism promotion’

Firdous Hassan

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Srinagar: A day after government formally revoked the security advisory, tourism players asked the authorities to lift the communication gag in a bid to create a “conducive atmosphere” for the tourists to visit the valley.

On Wednesday, Jammu and Kashmir government withdrew its August 2 security advisory asking tourists and AmarnathYatries to leave the valley.

Secretary Tourism Naveen Chaudhary accompanied by Director Tourism Nisar Ahmad Wani Thursday held a meeting with travels agents and hoteliers to discuss strategies to lure tourists back to the valley.

 

A travel agent, who was a part of the meeting, told The Kashmir Monitor that the stakeholders asked the officials that no promotion was possible unless internet and mobile connectivity is restored.

“We told him (Secretary Tourism) that restoration of communication is a prerequisite for every promotional activity related to the tourism under current circumstances. All the participants told him that no bookings are possible without internet service,” he said wishing not to be named.

In the meeting, tourism players gave a detailed account of the losses suffered during the last two months of the clampdown.

“We informed the Secretary tourism that the sector has been facing huge losses for the last few years. Travel agents also individually conveyed their concerns about the repeated internet shutdowns,” the travel agent said.

Sources said secretary tourism assured the stake holders of all the logistical support in promoting Kashmir as a safe destination.

“He (Secretary Tourism) said that more promotional camps will be held to promote Kashmir. Regarding restoration of connectivity the officials said that it was a gradual process. Secretary Tourism also assured that all security measures for the tourists,” sources said.

Director Tourism Nisar Ahmad Wani said it was an “informal” meeting to hear the stakeholders. “We held informal meeting with the representatives of tourism associations,” he said.

 It was the first meeting of tourism department with the stakeholders after abrogation of Article 370 on August 5.

Considered as backbone of Kashmir’s economy, tourism is going through one of its worst phases since August 5.  Around 1.74 lakh tourists visited Kashmir in June, followed by 1.52 lakh, including 3,403 foreigners, in July, according to official figures.

The tourism department in absence of tourists and connectivity has mostly performed the role of ticketing agents for the passengers. Many ticket operators had put up their stall in the office of Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Development Corporation (JKTDC) to sell the customers tickets of different airline companies.


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Lead Stories

Northern Army Commander visits Siachen

Monitor News Bureau

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Srinagar, Oct 20:Lieutenant General Ranbir Singh, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Northern Command Sunday visited forward posts in Siachen Glacier. He was accompanied by Lieutenant General Harinder Singh, General Officer Commanding, ‘Fire & Fury Corps’.

“Complementing the troops deployed in the Sector for their dedication and perseverance, Lieutenant General Ranbir Singh said that the nation is proud of the valour and sacrifices of the ‘Siachen Warriors’,” an army spokesperson said.

“He exhorted them to continue to uphold the high standards of professionalism and commitment, even while deployed in the face of extreme challenges posed by the highest battlefield in the world. He also laid a wreath at the Siachen War Memorial, as a mark of respect for the martyrs of Operation MEGHDOOT,” he added.

 

Lieutenant General Singh later visited ‘Heritage Abode’ – the residence of one of the greatest heroes of Ladakh, Late Colonel Chhewang Rinchen at Sumur Village in Nubra Valley.

Colonel Chhewang Rinchen was awarded the Maha Vir Chakra twice and a Sena Medal, for his acts of valour during the various battles fought in the Ladakh Sector. Paying his respects, Lieutenant General Ranbir Singh said that Colonel Chhewang Rinchen will continue to inspire future generations of Indians.

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No merger on cards, J&K Bank has strong fundamentals:Chhibber

Monitor News Bureau

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Srinagar, Oct 20: Putting all the speculations about the J&K Bank’s merger at rest, J&K Bank Chairman and Managing Director R K Chhibber today stated, “The recent crisis of Punjab and Maharashtra Cooperative (PMC) Bank in the country has worried bank customers in general but the rumors of J&K bank’s merger by some vested interests has raised apprehensions among our depositors particularly in J&K. Let me put all those speculations at rest by assuring you that no merger is on the cards and the bank’s fundamentals are very strong.”

In a press statement, he further said, “Let me assure all the stakeholders of the bank that their beloved bank is in safe hands of more than 12000 strong J&K Bank family under the supervision and guidance of a professionally strong board of directors with a robust accountability framework in place for transparency and efficiency. The only way to go for the bank is up and above, towards higher levels of accomplishments.”

Commenting upon the effect of recent political developments in J&k upon the bank, he said, “We certainly believe that the recent developments that have taken place in state won’t affect the essence of this institution, which is to financially serve the people of J&K and catalyze the economic development of this region.J&K Bank has witnessed far bigger challenges in the past, and we believe, as always with the emotional equity of the people, support of J&K Government and unmatched commitment of our staff, we shall meet every challenge head-on and come out stronger and more successful.”

 

While reiterating that J&K Bank has strong fundamentals with all its major financial indicators performing well, the Chairman also asserted that few of the large loans, made some years ago that have turned Non Performing Assets (NPAs) and are being investigated; have been adequately provided for by the bank and shall have no impact on the profitability of the bank.

“Let me assure you that we are here to be with you and lead you towards a more promising and fulfilling economic future”, he said.

Reflecting upon the long and eventful journey of the bank, the Chairman said, “It has been a long, eventful and challenging journey of over eighty years that has shaped up not only this great institution but the very structure and the substance of J&K’s economy. For all this, we acknowledge and admit the instrumental role of our shareholders and customers whose unwavering trust and cooperation has been the guiding light for us during eight decades of our existence.”

Expressing his gratitude for the bank’s main stakeholders, Chairman said, “In particular we appreciate the unflinching support of our main stakeholders i.e.the J&K Government, the Board of Directors, and employees at large. J&K Government has always come forward to support the bank in all spheres and have already raised their stake to 59 pc in the bank by providing capital of Rs 532 Crfor business growth and regulatory requirement. Thegovernment has also indicated to extend additional capital support in near future to meet our Basel III capital requirements.”

Notably, thevery reason for the establishment of Jammu & Kashmir Bank by its founders in 1938 has been to empower the people of the state financially so that an era of development could be ushered in.Today we see that vision transformed into reality as J&K Bankleads from the front with market share of more than 65 pc, more than 12 million account holders from two million households and a total business around 1.65 lac Cr.

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Market Intervention Scheme: Govt procures 1.5L apple boxes, disburses Rs 8 cr

Mudassir Kuloo

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Srinagar, Oct 19: Jammu and Kashmir government has procured 1.5 lakh apple boxes and paid around Rs 8 crore to growers under the ambitious Market Intervention Scheme (MIS) so far.

Launched last month in association with the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED), MIS was aimed at easing difficulties of the apple growers in the valley.

Director Horticulture, Kashmir, Ajaz Ahmad Bhat, said around 4000 growers have been registered under the scheme so far.

 

“We have procured 1.5 lakh apple boxes, which roughly comes to 2000 metric tonnes of fruit. We did business of around Rs 10 crore and almost Rs 8 crore have been disbursed to apple growers so far,” Bhat told The Kashmir Monitor.

Director Horticulture noted that there has been a good response since October 7, when government revised the rates of apples.

“As per government order, the payment has to be disbursed within three days after procurement of apple. Sometimes it may take five days. We will continue this scheme till December 15. It can be extended if need arises. This scheme is working in a hassle free manner and apple growers are benefitting,” he said.

 The initial rates for A grade apple were Rs 52 per kilo, Rs 36 for B grade and Rs 15.75 for C grade apple. The revised rates for A grade apple are Rs 58 per kilo, Rs 42 for B grade and Rs 22 for C grade apple.

Bhat said six lakh metric tonnes of apple have been exported so far. This includes 2000 metric tonnes exported under market intervention scheme.

“Kashmir grows around 21 lakh metric tonnes of apple and over 25 percent has been exported so far. Most of the growers have exported apples on their own without benefitting from the scheme,” he said.

Kashmir’s fruit season starts in May when first crop of cherry is harvested. It is followed by pears and other fruits which hit the market in the following months. Apple is almost the last crop that hits the market in autumn. Bulk of the apples is exported to the markets in Delhi. Some of the crop is also sold in Bangalore, Mumbai, Ahmadabad and other cities.

Horticulture is the mainstay of Kashmir’s economy with seven lakh families directly and indirectly associated with the sector. The horticulture contributes seven percent to the Gross State Domestic Product of Jammu and Kashmir.

More than 3.38 lakh hectares of land is under the fruit cultivation in the valley. Of which 1.62 lakh hectares is under the apple cultivation. Last year the fruit production including dry fruits touched 23.30 lakh tonnes last year compared to 22.34 lakh tonnes in 2017.

Jammu and Kashmir is the largest producer of apple in the country with production touching 18.28 lakh metric tonnes last year. The apple production was 17.27 lakh metric tonnes in 2017.

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