The Kashmir Valley is expected to become the world’s best tourism destination. It will emerge as a popular tourist attraction for both domestic as well as foreign tourists in a few years. In an effort to give the required fillip to the tourism industry in Jammu and Kashmir, the Centre has unveiled many ambitious projects.
It will build additional terminals at Jammu and Kashmir airports to meet the rush of tourists. Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiradiya Scindia has announced Rs 2300 crores for the development of these additional terminals. The government also decided to start a direct flight between Srinagar and Sharjah in October, besides developing new picturesque tourist sites that had remained untapped. Unrest in the Union Territory has badly affected the tourism industry, which is the backbone of its economy.
The Centre also announced Rs 3612 crore projects to improve road connectivity in Jammu and Kashmir and link far-flung areas through metalled and wide roads. It will help develop more tourist destinations in the UT. More than 35 flights operate between Srinagar and Delhi, and other parts of the country every day.
The Srinagar-Sharjah direct flight will enable foreign travellers to reach Kashmir directly. There is a heavy volume of business between traders of Kashmir and the UAE. Handicrafts, horticulture produce and other items are in greater demand in the Gulf nations. The Prime Minister deputed more than fifty Central Ministers to Jammu and Kashmir to reach out to the people and address their problems.
The Civil Aviation Minister said that the Srinagar airport will be expanded at a cost of Rs 1500 crores. Similarly, Rs 600 crores have been allocated for the Jammu airport, which receives thousands of Vaishno Devi pilgrims. The government has acquired 25,000 square metres of land for the construction of an additional terminal at the Srinagar airport. A premium lounge has also been approved for the Srinagar airport.
Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari has laid foundation stones of four National Highway projects worth Rs 3,612 crore in the Union Territory, including the Srinagar Ring road project, which will be completed by 2023. Gadkari said the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway would be completed in 2-3 years. This will help reduce travel time between Jammu and Srinagar by several hours.
He termed road connectivity as a key driver of the socio-economic growth and development of any region. “There is no dearth of funds in the Ministry. I assure you to bring in logistic support of every kind that is beneficial for tourism and the economy of Jammu and Kashmir,” he said. The new projects will further strengthen the road connectivity in J&K, thus opening up new livelihood avenues for the local population, enhancing tourism and business activities, and improving the quality of life of the people, he hoped.
He also advocated introducing eco-friendly measures in the transport sector. Lt Governor Manoj Sinha said the National Highway projects would catalyze overall socio-economic development in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. The projects include strengthening and up-gradation of 43 km existing carriageway on Baramulla-Gulmarg Section of NH-701A, construction of new double lane bypass from Donipawa via Ashajipora connecting NH-244 and NH-44, construction and upgradation of existing 28 km stretch from Vailoo to Donipawa on Khellani Khanabal Section of NH-244, besides the construction of much-awaited Ring Road around Srinagar city.
He said that Jammu and Kashmir has undergone tremendous changes in terms of infrastructure development during the last few years. “Four tunnels will be built on Chenani-Kishtwar highway at a cost of Rs 10,000 crores. To modernize Jammu-Srinagar National Highway, tunnels at a cost of Rs 4000 crores, besides five flyovers worth Rs 3000 crore will be built in J&K, reducing the travel time and traffic congestion substantially.
By December 2022, Kashmir will be connected to Kanyakumari by train”, he said. Information and Sports Minister Anurag Thakur inaugurated three highly equipped indoor stadiums in the UT. The Minister, who was in J&K as part of the Government’s public outreach programme, stated that every district will have a state-of- the-art stadium where all facilities will be provided to budding players.
Tailpiece (Deepak Razdan)
As festivals came, places of worship were reopened to the public; traffic rush to malls and big markets shows people were actually waiting for festivals to do shopping!
(Contributed by Amit Banerjee, Sheikh Manzoor and Deepak Razdan)