Omar tears apart govt over Tosmaidan demining issue

Pardeep Singh Bali

Ex-Chief Minister and leader of opposition in lower house of Jammu and Kashmir legislature-Omar Abdullah Thursday mocked apprehensions of the chief minister-Mehbooba Mufti over demined area at tourist destination ‘Tosmaidan’.

“The CM Mehbooba Mufti has herself confessed at Tosmaidan last Sunday that complete demining has not been done,” Omar Abdullah said addressing Speaker, Kavinder Gupta, “then why has government opened the area for tourists?” Omar asked government to assure the house that the area is “safe and secure” for humans. “What for have your government started adventure tourism festival when lives are not safe,” he asked the treasury benches.

Responding to concerns, PDP-BJP Government spokesperson, Naeem Akhtar, said, “Army has told the government that 65 sq km of Tosmaidan is completely demined so it is safe for any human activity.” “We are conscious about this and it is only after ascertaining that the area is safe and secure, our government has opened it for tourists,” Naeem Akhtar informed the house. He added that adventure tourism players have been engaged and such sports have been started in Tosmaidan.

Observing that Tosmaidan has no infrastructure in place “that it could be declared” as a tourist spot, Omar Abdullah in his supplementary question asked the government whether it has any plans to develop the area. “Not on routine basis,” Omar told the treasury benches, “is there any special plan/package that you will develop Tosmaidan?”

The government responded that under PM’s Rs 80000 crore economic package, Rs 73 Cr has been earmarked for development of Yusmarg-Doodpathri and Tosmaidan.

Maintaining that Gulmarg, Sonamarg and Pahalgam tourist destinations have been turned into “concrete jungles”, Omar sought assurance from PDP-BJP government that same is not done in Tosmaidan. “We have seen how 40 rooms (hotels at tourist resorts) were constructed when permission was granted for only ten rooms,” Omar told the house.

Omar further asked whether government had any plans to engage any expert, of international repute, who would give plan to develop Tosmaidan. Asserting that PDP-BJP Government “won’t allow Tosmaidan to turn into concrete jungle”, Naeem Akhtar told the house that his government is resolved to develop Tosmaidan as “bio-sphere”. “Tosmaidan will be a prime eco-tourism spot in J&K,” Naeem said in his response to former CM.

“Let me assure this august house,” Naeem said, “there is a thumb role that no concrete structure will be allowed in Tosmaidan.” He added that government will be engaging services of “best expert” who will design the plan for developing Tosmaidan.

Naeem fuether said, “We are focusing on interior development. Kothas are being developed so that Kothawalas (nomads) are able to host tourists for the nights,” he said and added “Economy of real stake holders will be given boost.” On the demand that Khag-Shunglipora-Tosmaidan be developed, Naeem said that a policy is already in place to develop roads leading to tourist places in J&K.

“That won’t be done in isolation,” Naeem said, “it is for certain that road leading to Tosmaidan will be upgraded so that tourists won’t face any problem.” Pertinently, Tosmaidan was last Sunday officially opened as new Tourist destination by CM Mehbooba Mufti.

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