Balwant Singh Bhau
Tourism which is the main stay of Jammu and Kashmir economy was completely ignored by the previous NC-Congress coalition government.
Though the government during those days made vehement claim of having improved the tourism scenario of Jammu & Kashmir, a report of the Union Tourism Ministry has revealed how projects were shelved and funds left unutilized by the previous government.
Data reveals that J&K was sanctioned Rs. 1 12.60 crores rupees for 25 Tourism projects in the year 2012-13. The State Tourism Ministry failed miserably to utilize this amount and left around 75% of the total sanctioned amount unutilized. The then NC-Congress coalition government utilized just Rs. 28.46 crores which is 25% of the total sanctioned amount. This raises serious question on the intellect and wisdom of both the then Tourism Secretary and the one who was heading the planning department.
None of these 25 projects have been completed and more shocking is the fact that funds have been diverted for other projects in most of the cases brazenly and in incomplete violation of all the rules and regulations. The previous NC-Congress coalition government learnt no lessons and in the year 2013-14 against 76.18 crores rupees sanctioned for 15 new projects, it could utilize just 2.36 crores rupees.
For those who during these days would make inflated claims of having brought J&K on the tourism map of India, spending of 0.34 percent on 15 tourism projects should be an eye opener. The amount that has been shown as utilized was spent on preparing drawings, project reports and buying cars for the officers of tourism department.
Not only this, even some of the amount was spent on photography and getting advertisements published in various newspapers. The then Union Ministry for tourism repeatedly asked the then NC-Congress government about the reasons for their failure to utilize funds meant for tourism projects. Details accessed by Newspoint Bureau revealed that the state tourism ministry either preferred not to respond at all or gave guarded replies.
Annoyed with this non serious attitude of the then NC- Congress coalition government, the Union Tourism Ministry stopped sanctioning huge amounts for J&K. For the year 2014-15, J&K was sanctioned 7.32 crores rupees for two tourism projects. This is 16 times lesser allocation then what was in the year 2012-13. Union Tourism Ministry made cut in the funds allocation for J&K after observing the non-seriousness of the then government and inability to spend sanctioned amounts.
The then Union Tourism Ministry had categorically told the then NC- Congress coalition government that either they should improve spending or be ready for more cuts. They had expressed displeasure over the State Tourism Ministries what they described as frivolous replies to the questions on lesser spending on the tourism projects and failure to come up with utilization certificates.
It needs to be mentioned here that these funds had been sanctioned for J&K to uplift tourism infrastructure, create tour circuits, upgrade facilities at various tourist destinations and develop both pilgrim as well as medical tourism.