Kashmir Valley-based stakeholders met a visiting 31-member parliamentary delegation on Thursday and pressed for improving the Valley’s road connectivity and demanded an economic package for the tourism sector.
T.G. Venkatesh, Rajya Sabha member and chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on transport, tourism and culture, met trade and travel bodies in Srinagar. The meeting was also attended by National Conference president and MP Farooq Abdullah. He, however, refused to talk to the media. It’s the first such outreach after the COVID-19 pandemic broke out last year.
The parliamentary delegation held a meeting with stakeholders to review and examine the status of highways/State highways, potential and promotion of tourism sector and preservation of archaeological and heritage sites in Jammu and Kashmir.
“All-round development of Jammu and Kashmir is a major goal of the Government of India. The committee is here to understand the problems of residents and resolve them. We listened to the stakeholders about constraints, like road transport, and discussed measures to ensure that Jammu and Kashmir’s highways match international best standards and road safety measures,” Mr. Venkatesh said.
He said the committee would also take stock of the promotion of tourism “by tapping domestic tourism, promotion of rural and adventure tourism.”
“We raised the issue of frequent closure of the Srinagar-Jammu highway this year and its huge fallout on Kashmir’s economy. Such closures spike airfares that dissuade prospective tourists. There is a need to have accountability and punish the agencies and the officials who fail to meet the deadlines, while carrying out work on the highways,” Kashmir Chamber of Commerce, Industries (KKCI) president Sheikh Ashiq said.
At least 11 trade bodies, travel organisations and hoteliers’ unions met the delegation.
“We demanded soft loans to revive our business,” All J&K Shikara Union president Ghulam Ahmed Kolu said.
United Tourism Forum chairman Manzoor Ahmed Pakhtoon said he demanded “a financial package to revive tourism in Kashmir.”
Farooq A Kuthoo, chairman of the Travel Agents Association of Kashmir (TAAK), demanded immediate installation of a modern instrument landing system (ILS) at the Srinagar Airport to allow operation of flights at a minimum visibility.
“A comprehensive Kashmir tourism campaign may be started at national level to encourage travellers to visit Kashmir and project it as a safe travel destination. The travel industry has suffered badly after August 2019 and then the coronavirus pandemic, for which the Centre should immediately announce a bailout package,” Mr. Kuthoo said.
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