Garden or grazing ground; Azad’s gift to Jammu

Balwant Singh Bhau

Ex-Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad’s love for flowers has cost state exchequer heavily in Jammu without any significant result.

A whooping Rs 8.5 crores has been spent and yet there is nothing to showcase to the public in the name of Tulip garden on what was once described as 563 kanals of land at Bhour Camp in Jammu. Cows can be seen grazing along with donkeys, mules and dogs. They are the only frequent visitors to what was once described as prestigious tourism project for Jammu region.

“It will be a tourist attraction in Jammu. People will come flocking to this garden. I am sure it will a prime tourist destination,” is what the then Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad had said when this unsanctioned garden was inaugurated on March 31, 2008. Out of 563 kanals, seven varieties of flowers have been cultivated on 207 kanals.

After 9 years, flower garden is nowhere. Allegations are that crores of funds meant for the project have been swindled by both contractors as well as officers involved in this prestigious project. Ex-Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad had then said that this would boost the tourism industry of Jammu but investigation has revealed that it has boosted economics of contractors and officers.

A look at the garden explains all. It seems that the project has been abandoned and blame passed on to the rise in the water level of the Tawi and absence of a boundary wall because of which cattle of villagers living nearby, frequently stray into the garden; damaging the plantation and flowers.

A visit to what was once a garden revealed that villagers from surrounding areas can be seen grazing cattle near the flower beds in the garden. If the officials are to be believed, of the 563 Kanals earmarked for the garden, just 100 Kanals is available for gardening while the rest of area is used by the locals for leisure and sports activities. Even one can see cars of various driving institutes on the land meant for the flower garden. None is there to stop people from misusing the land belonging to the garden.

Allegations are that the flower garden was gifted to Jammu just for ensuring parity with Kashmir. While the Tulip garden of Kashmir is state’s most prestigious project, the flower garden of Jammu has been long forgotten both by local leaders of Jammu as well as state government. Officials of the floriculture department told Newspoint that the flower garden has turned out as a rehabilitation place for nearly 80 permanent and casual workers of the Floriculture Department.

This un-sanctioned garden was established by the state floriculture department for promotion of tourism but due to apathetic attitude of the government, it has been reduced to merely a grazing ground. The present condition of the garden is dismal because it has neither any flowers nor plants to lure tourists.

Local people alleged that the caretakers of the garden are not provided with material for its maintenance. They informed that number of people from Jammu city and its adjoining areas started visiting the garden soon after its inauguration but due to non-seriousness of the government the garden turned into a grazing ground for livestock.

Sources told Newspoint that he floriculture department is facing serious shortage of staff. They added that the department has to ensure upkeep and maintenance of around 80 parks and gardens in Gandhi Nagar while it has just 9 officials and around 80 causal labourers for maintenance of all these parks including the one at Bhour camp which is not a park anymore.

They further said that the then Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad turned land allotted for botanical garden to flower garden. Sources disclosed that the department has now sent a proposal of around Rs. 28.50 crore for the development of recreation Garden at Bhour camp. On being asked, Director Floriculture K.K.Sharma said that about Rs 2.85 crore has been spent till date out of which upto Rs 1 crore has been spent on the wages of permanent and casual labourers engaged for the maintenance of flower garden at Bhour Camp.

He added that in 2007, when this project was conceived besides permanent employees, 60 casual labourers were engaged for the maintenance but presently there are only five permanent and 25 casual labourers struggling to maintain the garden. “We have a got Detailed Project Report (DPR) prepared from a Delhi based consultancy projecting estimated cost of Rs 28.42 crore and submitted it to the government in 2009.  We have prepared a revised DPR with an estimated cost of Rs 37.42 crore and submitted it to the Tourism department for development of recreational garden at Bhour Camp,” added Sharma while promising that he would share more details.

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