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Tourisim in Kashmir

In the contemporary period, tourism has become a big business and has been considered as a fastest growing industry. This is primarily a service industry because it does not produce goods but extends services to various classes of people. Tourism can play an effective role in integrating the entire universe. Tourism opens up a new window for resources, both investments and generation, leading to employment generation as well as socio-economic development of the local populace at large.

The tourism industry is identified as an important `tiger’ industry for the first decade of the current century. India’s share in international tourist travel is abysmally low. Reasons are many but the main factor is that the geography and history of India are little known outside South Asia and, therefore, remain insignificant for international tourists. From time to time, India has evoked interest of international tourists for factor never contemplated in any planning. For example, the worldwide screening of film `Gandhi’ in the period 1983-85 provided a major impetus for international travelers to visit India.

A national policy on tourism highlighting the importance of the sector and the objectives of tourism development in the country was presented in the Parliament in 1982. The policy was formulated in an environment of a closed economy with rigid licensing procedures. The policy did not emphasize the role of private sector, and foreign investment was not envisaged. The policy also did not lay adequate emphasis on domestic tourism and the need for product development. In the Chief Ministers' Conference held on October 30, 2001, then the Prime Minister of India, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee had stated:

"Tourism is a major engine of economic growth in most parts of the world. Several countries have transformed their economies using the tourism potential the fullest... Tourism has great capacity to create large scale employment of diverse kind - from the most specialised to the unskilled and all of us know that generation of massive productive employment opportunities is what India needs the most".

The Ministry of Tourism had prepared a draft National Tourism Development Policy with the objective of positioning tourism as a major engine of economic growth and to harness its direct and multiplier effects for employment and poverty eradication in an environmentally sustainable manner. This draft was circulated to all the stakeholders in the Tourism sector, the Private sector, the Industry Associations, the State Governments, Departments and Ministries of Government of India. The draft on National Tourism Policy-2002 was also discussed at the three-day Tourism Conclave comprising of:-

  1. Meeting of all foreign and domestic officers of Tourism Ministry;
    b.   Meeting of State Tourism Secretaries; and
    c.   Meeting of the State Chief Ministers and Tourism Ministers.

The Policy rests upon the following basic principles which are described in National Tourism Policy of India.

Account should be taken of the fact that for the last four decades or so, a tourism revolution has been sweeping the world. In 1964, the number of tourists leaving their homes, worldwide, was 100 million. This number increased to 200 million in 1974,500 million in 1992 and 700 million in 2001. And this number is likely to swell to 1.5 billion by 2020 and receipts from it are estimated to cross $2000 billion. If India has to partake in this revolution in a meaningful way, it must change its strategies as well as the techniques and tools of its machinery of implementation. In this connection, it has to be noted with concern that during the last decade or so, India's share of world tourist traffic has remained static at 0.38 per cent.

At the institutional level, a framework would have to be evolved which is Government-led, private-sector driven and community-welfare oriented. Government has to provide a legislative framework to regulate tourism trade and industry, ensure safety and security of the tourists and create basic infrastructure and health-care facilities. The private sector has to act as a main spring of the activities and impart dynamism and speed to the process of development as well as conservation. Both Government and the private sector would be required to safeguard the stability and also the social and economic advancement of the local communities and the communities in the neighbourhood.

The deep-rooted relationship of tourism and our cultural assets should be fully recognised and provided for. Improvements and environmental upgradation of the protected monuments and the areas around them should be considered as a linchpin of the tourism industry.

Sustainability should serve as a guiding star for the new Policy. The development and management strategies should be so worked out as to ensure that tourism largely acts as a smokeless industry and its ecological footprints remain as soft as possible. No one engaged, directly or indirectly, in the tourism industry should be allowed to secure short-term gains by resorting to what has been called the darker side of tourism. Neither over-exploitation of natural resources should be permitted nor the carrying capacity of the tourist-sites ignored.

Greater emphasis should be laid on eco-tourism whose parameters should be broader than those of nature tourism alone. It must help in eliminating poverty, in ending unemployment, in creating new skills, in enhancing the status of woman, in preserving cultural heritage, in encouraging tribal and local crafts and in improving overall environment and facilitating growth of a more just and fair social order.

Special thrust should be imparted to rural tourism and tourism in small settlements, where sizeable assets of our cultural and natural wealth exist. Effective linkages and close coordination should be established with such Departments as Civil Aviation, Environment, Forest, Railways, Home, etc.

The Ministry of Tourism recently desired all the State governments to provide schemes for the promotion of regional tourism and in the same manner the State Government of J & K was asked to do likewise. The Ministry of Tourism also appointed various expert groups to undertake surveys and studies and recommend perspective plans for the development of tourism extended over a period of 20 years. A set of guidelines were also issued, which the expert groups had to keep in mind while undertaking their work to formulate the perspective plan.

The State of J & K has three distinct regions, viz. Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and all three have immense potential for tourism from both domestic as well as international tourists. There are numbers of locations which are untapped and can be developed as major tourist destinations, having the entire natural as well as the cultural resources for attracting tourists. Some of the important natural resources are excellent climate, beautiful lakes, locations for adventure sports, wild life, trout fish, natural and manmade parks like Shalimar and Nishat of the Mughal period, flora and fauna, alpine forests, natural waterfalls and streams etc. As for the cultural resources, the state has some of the most important religious shrines of Hindus, historical monuments, plethora of local festivals, distinct cuisine, craftsmanship skills for intricate and fine woodwork, woolens, carpets, textiles, paper mache, inlay work etc.

Socio cultural interaction between Kashmir and other parts of India remained at-significant level with Adi Shankaracharya visiting the Valley all the way from the Karnataka area. The local king of Kashmir region had specially invited the Brahmins of Kannauj to migrate and settle in the valley in AD 800. These gentlemen from Kannauj laid the foundation of civil and political administration in the region, influencing generation of rulers as far as Nippon (Japan), Rus (South Russia), Caliphat (Mesopotanian delta) and in Saurashtra in the present West India. This ancient civilization has created its own local socio cultural milieu which is generally termed as kashmiriyat. It is a mixture of Buddhist, Hindu and Islamic religious philosophies. Significant icons of the cult of Kashmiriyat have been found wide spread in this region indicating that even when the area has 3 clearly distinct political and religious regions, there is still a certain cultural commonality called Kashmiriyat, which keeps the area intact as one. From the point of view of promoting tourism this philosophy is most significant, as it is unique. There are parts in this area, which are truly isolated in the purest sense. For example, there are 3 villages located in the Pir Panjal range on the Rajouri side, which have been inhabited by the progenies of the camp follower of Alexanders army. The men and women are all of Greek origin and speak a language which has no affinity with the local dialects. Again, there are 3 villages in south Ladakh deeply isolated which are inhabited by people who are the purest strain of the original Aryan civilization of Central Asia. The state government has banned entry of outsiders into these local areas to preserve their unique racial contents and ancient culture. Visitors entering this region as tourist are made aware of these unique social cultural assets of the State. If they find this experience enlightening, they return, to the state again and again, a fact, which has been confirmed by the various consultant surveys as well as those undertaken by others in the past.

But the other grave reality is that tourism has been directly hit at least in the region of Kashmir Valley. There is a state of despondency in all support services to the State tourism industry. Within Kashmir Valley the level of unemployment amongst youth is high and assuming dangerous proportion. Because of the violence prone environment, no well-known financial institutions are willing to invest in the State. Even the routine work of survey sampling as a part of this assignment has been found to be a highly dangerous activity for the individual. , have attempted under these very trying conditions to develop programmers’ of developmental activities which are related to the tourist industry and these have been incorporated between the covers of different  proposal. The objective to provide employment opportunities, improve the per capita income in families, raise general level of living standards without allowing for a superficial emergence of wealth and opulence in the local society .none were ever implemented). At the same time, our very unfortunate experience has been that outside the State, there have been no in-depth studies which would specialise in various activities of an economic growth including tourism.

Tourism has major economic significance for the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The visits from domestic and international tourist provide a valuable source of earning. Visitors spending generate income for both public and private sectors besides effecting wages and employment opportunities

The economy of Jammu & Kashmir lies heavily on tourism sector, entire state is full of colourful rocky mountains, valleys, trekking trail, several high rising chortens, snowy mountains, medows of flowers, lakes, garden and orchards, monuments and mandirs and forts and palaces, Ladhak is famous for its spectacular caves, monasteries etc. Jammu is famous for its temples. All these create tremendous economic potentialities in future. As mentioned earlier, tourism industry has played an important role in the development of the economy of the state as a whole. The economic activities are generated in the primary, secondary and territory sector of the valley. Hence tourism generated employment may be classified in to three major heads one is direct employment that sell goods and services directly e.g. hotels, restaurants, shops etc. Second one is indirect employment, which generally supplies goods, services to the tourism business and thirdly investment related employment in construction and other capital goods industries.

The greatest numbers of tourism jobs are found in the major central areas but it can be said that most of the job would be created in service sector like hotels and restaurants and travel & transportation etc.

Mainly three main areas of employment are

    Hotels and similar establishments and restaurants
    Passenger transport
    Distributors of the tourist product i.e. travel agency, tour operator, guides and reception staff.

Negative Impact -Socio Cultural

    Drug abuse
    Flourishing Prostitution
    Adoption of outside culture and lifestyle

The apprehension however is that keeping in view the development of the economy and the political characteristics in this region, any  perspective plan may also end up in the similar manner finally as many of the very well intentional similar schemes which have been contemplated in the past.

A simple aid otherwise, like a detailed map of the State of J&K is hard to come by today because the Central Government has put restrictions on the printing of such maps of the State. Within the State of J&K, it is not possible for a student to acquire a map of the State showing its physical features and road-links. The maps for tourists available are of German origin, which have been pirated and are readily available with the operators of mountain trekking. This simply indicates the kind of monumental problems, which planners, visualizing a plan perspective in developmental activities, will face when they have to put their programmes into print and visualize a future reality.

Elsewhere, specific recommendations with financial outlays for Government’s consideration have been given. The Government of India may underwrite specific schemes to create job opportunities for the people in the State of J & K. Many of the schemes envisage creation of job opportunities outside the State bureaucracy. This is deliberate as the State Bureaucracy is already over-burdened by a vast number of persons on their rolls, and the numbers need to be decreased..

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