Hoteliers fear trains to Katra could hit business in Jammu

Last Updated: Sat, Oct 20, 2012 08:30 hrs

Jammu, Oct 20 (IANS) Hoteliers fear that the flow of tourists here would decline, since the authorities have neglected the development of the city. Also, from next year, pilgrims to the Mata Vaishno Devi shrine will be able to ride trains all the way to Katra without stopping at Jammu.

All Jammu Hotel Lodges Association (AJHLA) has said that the hospitality industry would take a drubbing, if city authorities did not act in time to develop Jammu and its surroundings.

President of AJHLA, Inderjeet Khajuria, said, "The government has been apathetic, and little has been done to encourage tourists and pilgrims. We fear that the flow of tourists to Jammu, with the train reaching Katra (the base camp of famous Mata Vaishno Devi shrine) next year, will thin even further."

Khajuria cited the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) submitted to the state government and said that little had been done to develop heritage sites as destinations for tourists.

The hotels association president observed that even as things are at present, only 10 percent of the over one crore pilgrims visiting Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine annually stay put at Jammu.

Khajuria accussed the state government of being partial towards Kashmir Valley. "While a time has been set to link Kashmir Valley by rail with Katra, the development of Jammu city and its surroundings as an attractive tourist spot is being blatantly ignored," he said.

The Mubarak Mandi Heritage Complex (the court of the erstwhile Dogra rulers) in Jammu, for instance, could be projected as a tourist destination, but the government has done little to that end. Although a project for the purpose was initiated, no time frame was fixed for its completion, according to replies to an RTI petition.

Khajuria said that of the Rs. 300 crore total cost of the project, only Rs. 3 crore had been spent, and only one site was taken up for renovation.

The CAG report showed that the development of the oldest Raghunath Bazaar of the city as a heritage project too has been tardy. Taken up at an estimated cost of Rs. 6.62 crore in 2009-10, the report showed that Rs. 1.06 crore had been spent, up to March 2011, even though Rs. 2.27 crore had been released by the state government in that period for it.

The CAG report, tabled on the floor of legislative assemply Oct 10, pulled up the state government for lagging behind on development work.

"The developmental activities in Jammu have not been commensurate with the increased flow of tourists during the last few years visiting both Kashmir and Mata Vaishno Devi shrine at Katra," noted the report.

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