Comparing the mesmerizing natural beauty of Bhaderwah with that of Pahalgam and Gulmarg, Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Thursday called for concerted efforts to spiral tourist footfall by packaging ‘Chota Kashmir’ as an independent leisure destination. During his visit, the Chief Minister also inaugurated the colourful Bhaderwah Tourism Festival, a carnival of rich cultural and folk events which attracts people from all over Chenab valley. He also chaired the 7th Board of Directors’ meeting of Bhaderwah Development Authority (BDA) during which he took wide-ranging decisions aimed at putting the tourist resort in the forefront of travel industry. Deputy Chief Minister, Dr. Nirmal Singh, Minister for Forest & Social Welfare, Bali Baghat, Minister of State for R&B and Revenue, Sunil Kumar Sharma, Legislators, Dalip Parihar, Naresh Kumar Gupta, Shakti Parihar and Firdous Tak, Chief Secretary, B. R. Sharma, Principal Secretary to Chief Minister, B. B. Vyas, Director General, Information & PR, Zaffar Ahmed, Secretary Tourism, Farooq A. Shah, Director Tourism, Jammu, R. K. Varma, DIG DKR, Nisar Ahmad, SSP Doda, Zahid Manhas, Deputy Commissioner, Doda, Bhupinder Kumar, besides CEO, BDA, Bal Krishan attended the meeting. Asking the officers to bring hidden destinations like Bhaderwah on the tourism canvas of the state, the Chief Minister described creation of high-end tourism infrastructure as capital-intensive for which he sought participation of the private players. He said public private partnership in tourism sector will not only spur investment but also sustain local economy by creating job opportunities. “The footprint of tourists won’t increase unless advance planning is done to launch destinations like Bhaderwah and Jai. The optimal use of our existing assets will help make tourism a revenue-generating industry,” he stated. In order to showcase Bhaderwah, Jai, Padri, Seoj and Kailash Kund as one-circuit destination, the Chief Minister ordered Tourism Department to convene a Travel Trade Conference on November 15 next month at Bhaderwah, to finalise family packages to increase inbound footfall. He also desired that leading tour operators be invited for Familiarity Tours to obtain firsthand appraisal. “Bhaderwah is an ideal leisure destination which can attract tourists from neighbouring Punjab and Himachal Pradesh in large numbers,” he said, while referring to Bhadarwah-Chamba Road as a major link to boost travel industry on the north axis of the resort. The Chief Minister also ordered setting up of a clubhouse with composite facilities of conferencing, leisure, recreation and indoor sports, besides suites and rooms at Bhaderwah. Laying stress upon the need to create cluster of huts to improve holding capacity, Chief Minister also outlined his plan to develop Jai as a resort destination by setting up of a golf course, for which he asked Forest Minister to expedite transfer of 1200 kanals of land to the Tourism Department. “Golfing is an eco-friendly sport and Jai has the natural contours and landscape where a golf course can be developed,” he observed. He also directed Secretary Tourism to have a DPR prepared for an amusement park at Jai, on the pattern of Pahalgam where J&K Bank has set up one under its CSR. In order to improve connectivity, the Chief Minister asked the Chief Secretary to take up with BRO the up-gradation of 32-Km Bhaderwah-Jai Road. He also announced construction of park with viewing decks at Gatti Morh, 12 km from Bhaderwah town. To facilitate Kailash Kund Yatra, the Chief Minister asked Secretary Tourism to conceive a plan for creation of add-on facilities for the pilgrims, for which a project can be conceived under Pilgrim Tourism. Placing high priority on improving intake capacity at Bhaderwah and Jai, Mufti Sayeed stressed upon creating cluster of villas for night-bound tourists, without disturbing the environment. He also issued instructions for completing the Bhaderwah Fort Conservation Project, for which Union Ministry of Tourism had sanctioned funds. “Bhaderwah Fort has great heritage value. It needs to be preserved by taking expertise from Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH),” he suggested. The Chief Minister also directed CEO BDA to involve citizenry in keeping the resorts clean and showcasing cluster of destinations in its brochures and in-house publicity campaigns. Secretary Tourism informed the Chief Minister that Tourism Department is planning to diversify its activities to attract greater number of travellers to this resort. He said BDA has booked an expenditure of Rs.36.82 crore, out of the released amount of Rs. 41.02 crore for executing various projects under State Plan and CFA (Central Financial Assistance). “We need to increase the bed-capacity from approximately 500 at present, keeping in view the potential of Bhaderwah to attract more visitors,” he added. As many as 1.7 lakh tourists have visited Bhaderwah this year, including pilgrims who come to pay obeisance at Kailash Kund and Mani Mesh Yatra. Earlier, on his arrival here, Mufti Sayeed inaugurated the Yatra Base Camp, which will facilitate pilgrims to Kailash Kund and Mani Mesh, which has been constructed at a cost of Rs. 2.79 crore by BDA. With bed capacity for 100, the base camp is spread over 58 kanals of land with facilities of 15 bedrooms, 4 dormitories and a herbal garden. Chief Minister emphasised upon completion of ongoing projects and set a deadline of March 15, 2016 for completion of additional accommodation at Tourist Complex at Teligarh. He also asked Chief Secretary to fast-track clearance of 10 kanals of land in next meeting of the Forest Advisory Committee for creation of wayside amenities and food courts at Bhal Padri and Padri, popularly known as Gateway of Chamba. On development of Seoj Meadow, the Chief Minister directed Tourism Department to carry out a feasibility survey for developing slopes for skiing. In order to attract inward captive segment, Mufti Sayeed directed Tourism Department to focus on diversifying leisure activities by offering tented accommodation, paragliding, skiing and water sports in several scenic locations to draw visitors. During his address at Bhaderwah Festival, the Chief Minister extended his heart-felt greetings to the people on the auspicious occasion of Dussehra. Handing out an assurance that his government will not discriminate against any region or people, Mufti Sayeed said that nobody will harbour a sense of injustice and deprivation. He hailed the multicultural ethos of the state which has withstood the test of time. The Chief Minister said that relatively small number of students pursue studies at the Jammu University’s Bhaderwah Campus. He said there an urgent need to optimally utilize the huge infrastructure and the human resource deployed at the campus by attracting a much larger number of students. “Unless we do that, the objective of setting up a satellite campus at Bhaderwah will be vitiated,” he added. In the backdrop of huge potential in hydropower generation, Mufti Sayeed said the Skill Development Institute will be set up in Chenab Valley, which will enhance the prospects of employability of our educated unemployed youth from the region. Highlighting the camaraderie between the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi and Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, the Deputy Chief Minister said the PDP-BJP government will be the turning point in the history of the state. He lauded the Chief Minister for his vision to promote Jammu as an independent tourist destination. “I want to assure the people that the government will last its full term and bring about equitable development of all the regions in the state,” he said while addressing a huge gathering of people, who had congregated at the inaugural function of the Bhaderwah Festival. An annual event since 2006, Bhaderwah presented a festive look with a large number of people thronging the venue. The festival, which is major attraction for the people in the Chenab valley, attracts renowned artists from all over the state and the country.
2015 Kashmir Despatch