AKHNOOR, J-K: Allaying fears about Jammu losing focus due to direct train services to the holy town of Katra, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti today promised to take effective steps in positioning the winter capital as an independent tourist destination.
She said there is no dearth of nature destinations in Jammu and with its treasure trove of heritage sites, the city will attract a huge footfall of tourists.
The chief minister made the announcement to a gathering on the banks of river Chenab after inaugurating a tourist complex here. Besides Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh, Minister of State for Tourism Priya Sethi were also present on the occasion.
Mehbooba, who also holds charge of Tourism Department, assuaged feelings of certain sections of society, especially businessmen and traders, who think Jammu may lose focus due to better connectivity with Katra and said the government will strategize and diversify its activities for which a comprehensive plan will soon be drawn up.
“An international consultant will soon inspect Mubarak Mandi Heritage Complex and chalk out a strategy so that we restore it to its pristine glory. Similarly, we will remove bottlenecks in Jammu Ropeway Project which will provide a huge fillip to tourism sector here,” she said.
She said the state will have to learn from Rajasthan to conserve its heritage and culture assets.
Mehbooba said she had studied at Jammu but never got an opportunity to explore the place.
“On my first visit last week, I was simply riveted by the grandeur and majestic beauty of Mubarak Mandi Heritage Complex. We cannot allow it to be used as a parking place,” she said.
She said Tourism and Culture Departments together will identify the potential sites for tourism promotion in Jammu region.
On infrastructure upgrade, the chief minister mentioned Ranjit Sagar Dam in Basoli, Jammu Ropeway at Bahu Fort, Akhnoor Fort, Mughal Sarais in Rajouri, Patnitop, Surinsar, Mansar, Jai in Bhaderwah, Warwan in Kishtwar and Mantalai in Udhampur as places where all ongoing projects will be fast- tracked.
She said this will position Jammu as an emerging destination for inbound as well as foreign visitors.
Referring to her recent visit to border areas of Suchetgarh and Baba Chamliyal, Mehbooba said Jammu can emulate Wagah’s success in border tourism.
She said she will take up with the Centre the issue of starting a march-past on this side which can become a major attraction for tourists.
“I hope fresh thaw between India and Pakistan will enable us to promote border tourism on a larger scale,” she said.
On developing Akhnoor as a cultural and heritage centre, Mehbooba suggested landscaping the scattered patches around Chenab riverfront by planting flowers.
She also asked Secretary Tourism to highlight the heritage value of Jia Potha and Ambaran in Akhnoor so that art and culture aficionados make a beeline for the place.
“Devise weekend packages so that this place becomes a source of attraction for tourists, including Shiv Khori-bound pilgrims who travel on the stretch in large numbers,” she said and directed Tourism Department to provide add-on facilities like water-sports for the amusement of visitors.
In his address, the Deputy Chief Minister credited the vision of former Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed in promoting Jammu as a major travel destination.
Constructed at a cost of Rs 4.34 crore, the tourist complex has all modern facilities like suites, banquet hall and restaurants.
Earlier, the Chief Minister went around the complex and saw the facilities set up for the visiting tourists.
Jia Potha, which has heritage significance, is known as a coronation place for Maharaja Hari Singh and it has some remnants of Buddhist scriptures. Walkways have also been constructed towards the riverfront.–PTI