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Place your priorities right


Come spring, the slogans of promotion of tourism go louder and stronger. In the past 27 years—since the militancy erupted in the state, tourism has become a catchword with every government in place. We have heard it when Dr Farooq Abdullah took over as chief minister of the state in 1996. This echoed again in Mufti Mohammad Saeed’s, and after that in Ghulam Nabi Azad and Omar Abdullah’s governments too. And when Mufti Mohammad Saeed assumed the office of chief minister for the second time, in 2015, promotion of tourism was again the most-chanted slogan. The late Mufti, in fact, took some measured steps to get tourists to Kashmir. He spent several days in Mumbai and Gujrat, meeting people associated with tourist trade, to sell Kashmir as popular tourist destination. He also sought Mumbai film industry to return to valley for shooting films. In the process he met with legendry actor Dileep Kumar, Shah Rukh Khan and others and invited them to shoot films in Kashmir. This encouraged a section of film and industry, who came to shoot their films in Kashmir. Kashmir was a popular destination for Mumbai film industry before eruption of militancy in 1989. Mufti proposed flying of chartered planes by the state government and throwing open his own official residence for ‘destination wedding’. This (promotion of tourism) was projected up as a key measure for the development. Mahbooba Mufti, who took over the job of chief minister after the death of her father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed has also figured out her priorities according to the old script. With chief minister’s brother Tassaduq Mufti holding the charge of the tourism ministry, tourism still holds priority in the estimation of the government. But a keen study of the case makes one to feel that tourism is overemphasized while talking about economic development of Jammu and Kashmir. All the studies and surveys conducted in the state have shown that tourism is no major contributor to our economy. It contributes less than 3 percent to our overall economy. The state tourism department, after the collapse of so-called tourist industry in the wake of militancy, conducted a survey in early 90s, which showed that hardly around 10,000 people were directly and indirectly associated with tourist trade. If a similar is conducted even today, the conclusions would not be too different. People associated with tourist trade could be counted on finger tips. A limited chunk of people in and around Dal lake in Srinagar, and some hoteliers, shopkeepers, taxi drivers and labourers (including poneywallas) in Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Sonamarg are all who are related to tourist industry. They do not form even one percent of our overall population. There are no two opinions about the fact that Jammu and Kashmir requires development at all levels and in all sectors including tourism but overemphasizing least important sector would serve no purpose. What is surprising is that some people in and outside government project tourism as mainstay of Kashmir economy. It appears that people at higher levels have got influenced by this false propaganda, and they too seem to believe in it. According to government’s own admission, more than 70% population is directly and indirectly involved in horticulture and allied activities. As per estimates over 10 lac families are actively involved in horticulture sector. This sector is one of the most important employment generation sectors in the state. Agriculture and handicrafts are two other major sectors which could be termed as mainstay of our economy: the service sector being the other one. The state government should place its priorities right. Promotion of Horticulture, agriculture and handicraft industries should be the top priority of the government. Tourism is simply a political slogan. Initially it was raised to underline the disadvantages of militancy. One hopes that chief minister is not unaware of the key economic sectors of the state and she would herself monitor the development of basic economic sectors of the state.