Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed today announced development of Suchetgarh as major border tourism point on the lines of Wagah border in Amritsar district of Punjab but the proposal would require security clearance from the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in view of security environment prevailing along the International Border (IB).
Mufti Sayeed, who also holds charge of the Tourism Ministry, announced that development of Suchetgarh on the pattern of Wagah border will be a major priority of the State Government. The opening of Suchetgarh-Sialkot route for trade between India and Pakistan will be the second phase of the project, he said.
Talking to reporters after visiting Suchetgarh sector along with Speaker Kavinder Gupta, Minister for Youth, Services and Sports Imran Raza Ansari and top brass of the administration, the Chief Minister said the State Government proposed to develop Suchetgarh sector in RS Pura tehsil as a major border tourism spot on the line of Wagah border in Amritsar, Punjab, where large number of people and tourists visit daily.
“Just like Wagah has become major tourism spot, we propose to promote Suchetgarh as the same tourist destination,” he said and added that the border tourism can act as a meeting point between people from India and Pakistan.
“On the other side it is Sialkot and here it is Jammu. Earlier, when I used to visit this place, people from other side also used to visit this place. It is my desire to develop this place as a tourist destination on the pattern of the Wagah border in Punjab,” Sayeed said as he visited Zero Line along the International border in Suchetgarh sector that divides India and Pakistan.
He said his Government would take up the issue of developing Suchetgarh on the line of Wagah with Ministry for External Affairs (MEA) and Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Government of India.
“We will write to the Centre for promotion of Suchetgarh on the lines of Wagah for which the MEA and MHA had to give some approvals. Till then, we will develop this spot on our own.
Replying to a question on opening Suchetgarh-Sialkot route for trade between India and Pakistan, the Chief Minister said he was in favour of the trade between two countries just like it has been taking place from Wagah sector but added: “our first and foremost priority will be to develop it as border tourism destination”.
“The Government would initially set up an amusement park in Suchetgarh so as to attract more tourists. We will also try to make a fountain here so that people who come here can enjoy,” he said, adding that people of Jammu have been complaining that the tourist footfall in Jammu region has decreased after the train service reached Katra. He added the priority was to develop the place and provide all the basic facilities to the people visiting here.
Presently, there were only two points for trade between Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK)-one in Poonch district of Jammu (Poonch-Rawlakote route) and another in Kashmir (Uri-Muzaffarabad). However, both the cross-LoC trade points fall along the LoC and there is no point on the International Border (IB) in Jammu and Kashmir for trade between two countries.
He said that Sialkot in Pakistan was the nearest point from Suchetgarh border.
“I feel that this is the closest point between the two sides which can also help become bridge between the industries on either side”, the Chief Minister said adding that this place can act as a meeting point between the people from both the sides including people from Jammu and Kashmir, especially school children.
Mufti said the Government of India has spent around Rs 7 crore to develop some infrastructure but that was not enough and more was needed to be done.
“If we need to acquire some land to develop this place, we will do that. This is the one place in Jammu which can be developed as a tourist destination”, Mufti said.
Official sources pointed out that development of Suchetgarh on the lines of Wagah would require permission of MEA and MHA and view point of the Border Security Force (BSF), which mans the International Border (IB), will be very significant as the security quite often faced heavy mortar shelling and firing from Pakistan during which even the local civilians had to migrate.
During past two years, several civilians and BSF personnel have been killed or injured and large number of houses destroyed in Pakistan shelling.
So far, according to sources, the proposal for making Suchetgarh a border tourism point, has not come up before the BSF. The BSF officers would give their opinion only when it formally comes to them, they said.
Pointing out that people of Jammu including the traders shouldn’t worry about extension of train services to Katra from Jammu, Mufti Sayeed said the Government was committed to develop more tourist spots in Jammu to attract the Mata Vaishno Devi pilgrims and other tourists by promoting border tourism.
Saying the Government will work to create additional facilities to increase footfall of tourists to Suchetgarh, Mufti Sayeed said: “it will be ultimate if we are able to achieve a breakthrough with Pakistan in opening up Suchetgarh as an industrial trading point with Sialkot across the border”.
An official handout said:
Mufti directed the Tourism Department to work out the requirement of land for executing this project.
Divisional Commissioner, Jammu Pawan Kotwal assured that the acquisition of land would be done on a fast-track basis.
Mufti Sayeed was also briefed about the broad contours of the Ministry of Tourism’s Swadesh Darshan Scheme for development of Suchetgarh as a border destination. The project, sanctioned at a cost of Rs.4.92 crore, envisaged restoration of old Octroi post (built during British Era), construction of multi-purpose hall, development of pond and landscaping of the lawns.
Situated along the Indo-Pak International Border in R S Pura sector, Suchetgarh is only at a distance of 28 km from the winter capital. Jammu tourism will receive a huge fillip when Suchetgarh is further promoted as a border destination in the region.
The Chief Minister also inspected two other projects sanctioned by the Ministry of Tourism under Himalayan Circuit of Swadesh Darshan Scheme for Jammu city.
He first arrived at Bagh-e-Bahu, where Musical Water Fountains with Sound-and-Light Show will be set up at a cost of Rs. 10.82 crore. He passed instructions for installing durable deodar/teakwood seating, which goes with the ambience of one of Jammu’s best recreational destinations. Besides the laser fountain show, the project comprises construction of air-conditioned viewing gallery and solar illumination of entire premises.
The Chief Minister was told that the work on this project will be completed by 18th December, next year.
Later, the Chief Minister also inspected the site for Amusement Water Park on reclaimed land, in proximity of Sidhra Golf Course. The project has been sanctioned by Ministry of Tourism at a cost of Rs.8 crore and envisaged food courts, gazebos, open-air theatre, landscaping and souvenir kiosks.
During his visit to various institutions imparting technical education, Mufti Sayeed called for bridging the gap between skill and jobs for which, he said, concerted efforts are required for starting market-oriented courses. He also passed instructions for optimally utilizing the intake capacity of market-driven courses to enhance the coverage of training in such segments.
He visited Government & Women’s Polytechnic Institutes and Government and Women’s ITIs (Industrial Training Institutes) and interacted with students, who are pursuing diploma and short-term courses in automobile and mechanical engineering, basic cosmetology, computer and electronics, pre-school teaching, medical technology and textiles.
Apart of automobile and mechanical engineering, the Chief Minister instructed Director, Technical Education, to focus on traditional craft like Basohli shawl weaving, painting and Phulkari.
The Government recently sanctioned Skill Development Mission, which is headed by the Chief Minister, to provide broad policy guidelines to close gaps and focus on specific skills in four broad categories including handicraft, traditional and modern trades and agriculture-based enterprises.
While taking firsthand appraisal of ongoing works on sports infrastructure, the Chief Minister first visited K. K. Hakhu Hockey Stadium. He was briefed about the construction of a pavilion, spread over 6641 sq. ft., for which a project worth Rs.1.35 crore has been envisaged.
Mufti Sayeed also inspected construction work at Indoor Sports Stadium at M.A.M. College, which has been sanctioned by the Union Sports Ministry at a cost of Rs.6.42 crore. The work on the project is expected to be completed by March next year.
The Chief Minister also visited the upgraded swimming pool in M.A.M. College, on which Rs 1.75 crore have been spent. The pool, which is laced with all modern facilities, is equipped to host national events which will allow our athletes to compete with the best talent in the country.
Besides Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, Kavinder Gupta, Minister for IT, YS&S and Technical Education, Imran Raza Ansari, Legislators, Sham Chaudhary, Gagan Baghat and Ramesh Arora, Divisional Commissioner, Jammu, Dr. Pawan Kotwal, IG, BSF, Jammu, Rakesh Sharma and Secretary Tourism, Farooq. A. Shah, were also present on the occasion.
Immediately on his arrival at Suchetgarh, the Chief Minister was given a ceremonial guard-of-honour by a contingent of BSF personnel. He also went around the border outpost and saw many utilities.
Also present were Deputy Commissioner, Jammu, Simrandeep Singh, Secretary to the Chief Minister, M. H. Malik, Director, Tourism, Jammu, R. K. Verma, Director Technical Education, Shabnam Kamili, ADC, Jammu, Arun Manhas and Secretary Sports Council, Javed Ahmad Shah.