Er. P. L. KhushuThis Jammu-ruled state was the largest princely state with an area of 84,471 sq km. Contrary to the present situation and perceptions; Jammu as is learnt has been a progressive region having a very good socio-economic infrastructure. Jammu’s independent status ended with the signing of the Instrument of Accession in favour of India on October 26-27, 1947. In all the development areas a discriminatory stand was always adopted towards Jammu division due to the garnering of majority seats in the legislative assembly for Kashmir division, through irrelevant reasoning, thus differentiating Jammu with far less financial allocations for its development, ever since 1947, when Jammu and Kashmir came under so called democratic set up of governance. This ultimately led to regional imbalance between the regions of Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh, in earlier designated Jammu and Kashmir State. A discriminatory attitude was always adopted for Jammu, in all the development sectors like the road sector, irrigation facility sector, urban and rural electrification sector, power generation sectors, education sector both technical and non technical, public health sectors, medical services sectors, agriculture and horticulture sectors, housing and urban development sector, etc. Regional imbalances in all these sectors are still visible between Kashmir and Jammu, if a true and an honest study is made in this regard. While discussing the tourism sector of the state, Jammu has a tremendous potential for tourism development and has abundant charming tourist spots which could be exploited for the development. But Jammu was repeatedly ignored in this sector of development too, claiming that only Kashmir valley qualified for it, because of its natural scenic beauty. Just a max factor was added to Jammu in this regard like Patnitop tourist spot, Mansar Lake, etc, when huge funds under central government schemes for tourism were utilized only in Kashmir mostly. The author of this post has had an opportunity to serve in the J&K state tourism department way back in 1988-91, as deputy director ( Maintenance and Works), in charge of the tourism works of the whole state. It is the time when only one director of tourism at the apex level that is state level, was looking after as head of the department of entire Jammu & Kashmir tourism department, which included all the three regions viz, Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh. Terrorism trounced the Kashmir valley in 1990 and tourism sector in Kashmir valley came to a grinding halt. The government of that time headed by Jagmohan who was the governor then, being Governor’s rule, made serious efforts to focus on the development of tourism in Jammu division, when the ground situation in the valley was very much fluid due to the onslaught of terrorism. Under his strict instructions rigorous attempts had to be made to locate the tourist spots, in various spots in Jammu? Some tourism potential locations were identified in places like Doda, Rajouri and Poonch districts, as enough of potential to develop tourism both adventure and recreational was available at various spots in these districts. Similarly he was very much inquisitive to expand the base of pilgrimage tourism in the Jammu division, as there was a vast potential available in this behalf in the Jammu division. Efforts were equally made to expand the base of providing of way side facilities for the tourists both domestic or otherwise, on the national highway right from Lakhanpur on wards to bridge the gap of shortages of such facilities on the national highway. Accordingly tourist spots were located in the picturesque valley of Bhadarwah, like Jai Valley, Chinta Valley, Padri and Seoj Dhar Meadow, for their development as tourist spots. Similarly in Rajouri and Poonch districts various spots of tourism development were located like, Deraki Gali, Noori Chamb, Kotranka etc. Under pilgrimage tourism, spots like Sudh Mahadev, Gurikund, Mantalai, Sukrala Mata, Sarthal Mata, Chichi Mata, Budha Amarnath, Shivkhori and the like were identified for the development of pilgrimage tourism. It is during that time only when two Yatri Niwases were approved by government of India under central schemes for Jammu division, for the use of the Yatries of Mata Vaishno Devi. One was constructed at Katra and the other one was to be constructed near the railway station Jammu. The land for the same was identified in the J & K transport yard located opposite to the railway station Jammu, by the governor himself. With the exit of Jagmohan as governor, the J & K transport department backed out miserably and did not share the land for the construction of the Yatri Bhawan at this spot for the use of the yatris of Mata Vaishno Devi. Entire funds provided by government of India got lapsed. Nobody from the higher ranks of authorities in administration, who’s word would matter followed it seriously to accommodate this Yatri Bhawan near the railway station Jammu, or at some other place adjacent, when so many other government buildings and complexes came up later near the rail head point Jammu. Let us hope that such type of apathies do not get repeated as Jammu division has a full fledged separate directorate of tourism now. Equally there are tourism development authorities too at apex locations of tourism potentials and positively it is expected that Jammu should get fully developed in the tourism sector, while providing various types of tourism facilities to the people of Jammu. Let Jammu not suffer for others and made to suffer for the sins of Jehadi’s in Kashmir. While coming to actual tourism potential in Jammu division is concerned, If Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Sonamarg are considered as heavens on earth, as for as Kashmir Valley is concerned, Bhadarwah valley is no lesser a paradise as for as Jammu region is concerned. Bhadarwah is a lovely cool valley as the valley of Kashmir is. Its perpetual natural beauty and scenic status has made it to be called as ‘Chota Kashmir’. This Splendid Springing Valley is a beautiful valley situated at a distance of about 200 km from Jammu. If developed to the standard rationale of appropriate tourism standards, it can easily invite the foreign tourists in abundance, particularly for adventure tourism. It has enough potential to cater for the recreational tourism for the domestic and local tourists as well. The notable places for tourism development in Bhadarwah are Chinta Valley, Padri, Jai Valley, Seoj Meadow, Bhal Padri etc. Chinta Valley – situated 6500 ft above sea level is a picturesque valley in Bhadarwah bounded by thick coniferous forests. The valley is surrounded by several tourist spots including Thuba which is located across the Chinta Nallah. It is superb location for adventure tourism as also recreational tourism. Padri have beautiful landscapes and lies on the ensuing Bhadarwah-Chamba road at a distance of about 40 Kms from Bhadarwah. The landscape runs in a vast area when it is an ideal location for adventure sports like Snow-skiing in winters and Paragliding in summers. It is also highest Pass on Bhadarwah Chamba road. Jai is a green Valley which lies on the North East of Bhadarwah town about 32 Km. away connected to the town by beautiful Bhadarwah-Jai Link Road. This Valley has a large area under its command when a river known as Jai River divides it in two meadows. This Jai Nallah is popular for Trout Fish Culture. It is the ideal place for winter sports and trekking in the cool blue waters of this mountainous location. Seoj is flanked by a beautiful river on its west which emanates from hills surrounding Kailash Kund. The landscape across the river is replica of the beauty of Pahalgam, whereas on the eastern side there are long stretches of grasslands. On the south is the sacred Kailash Kund, surrounded by snow-capped mountains. On way to Kailash Kund, there is unique landscape at Shankh Paddar. It is to just mention about some of a few spots in this range of mountains known as Pir Panchal range and its off-shoots which includes Doda, Poonch and Rajouri districts too, when there are numerous other tourist spots in this belt like Lal Draman (Doda), Bhal Padri (Bhalessa), Chatergalla pass (Bhadarwah), located on Bhadarwah-Bani-Basohli Road passing through Chatergalla pass, which is the highest pass in the area, among other such scenic beautiful tourist spots in this region. Tourism potential of Jammu in these locations of Doda district, can be made as novel tourism spots, if proper and dedicated initiatives are taken in this regard. It can then meet the standards not only of the national tourism criteria but these locations once developed fully as per standard norms, can become an international tourist places too. Same is true about Rajouri and Poonch districts too where enough of tourism development potential is available in spots like Dera-ki-gali, Noori-Chamb, Kotranka etc. All these spots can provide good opportunities for adventure tourism of sorts. Way side facilities along the route from Jammu to Poonch at all strategic locations including Kali Dhar, needs to be provided on an expansive scale. There’s a temple on the Jammu-Poonch highway, before Bhambla and after Akhnoor. The temple is known as Kalidhar temple and is visited by all the travelers, travelling from Jammu to Poonch or vice versa. Every traveler stops at this Mandir to pay respects to the Goddess. Adventure tourism offers an excellent option for undertaking a large number of activities such as, mountaineering, trekking, skiing, rafting, canoeing, mountain biking etc. The aspect of development of adventure tourism destinations shall have to be the main thrust in the aforesaid areas as these locations are the choicest locations for such a kind of tourism in Jammu division. The most popular and best established among these are trekking, mountaineering and river rafting. Chenani River offers a best choice for river rafting in Jammu division. With the coming up of Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Tunnel, at Chinnai linking Jammu to Srinagar and Doda district etc, an easy road access is now available to reach these spots quickly and safely. The existing Patnitop tourist resort is a perfect place to experience nature at its picturesque best and widest. It is a famous hill station in the Udhampur district of Jammu & Kashmir. It is a well developed tourist spot presently in the Pir Panjal range. In mid winter this tourist spot is covered with snow, thus providing opportunities for various winter sports, etc. To further its importance and make it more tourist attractive its road connectivity with Sanasar which is again a tourist location and is a satellite resort of Patnitop is at a distance of about 20 Kms from Patnitop, needs to be upgraded and widened which is in a dilapidated condition. Sanasar is beautiful mountainous meadow surrounded by lush green trees. The resort itself is ideal for paragliding, which is a part of adventure tourism. It can be developed for trekking as well. On Patnitop Sanasar road there is a place called Natha Top. It has very good slopes which need to be developed for conducting advanced ski courses, by establishing ski shop and paragliding shop. Jammu region is a famous place having a lot of scope for pilgrimage tourism. Tourists visiting the state constitute a huge chunk of religious devotees. Sudh Mahadev, Gauorikund, Mantalai, Sukrala Mata, Sarthal Mata, Chichi Mata, Budha Amarnath, Shivkhori etc, are the famous religious places in Jammu located in different districts of Jammu. Devotees visit these places throughout the year regularly. Facilities like providing of dormitories to pilgrims for night stays along with the improvements in the basic infrastructural facilities of standard qualities are required to be provided at all such places to boost and promote the scope of pilgrimage tourism in Jammu which is an essential limb of tourism development. For local tourists in Jammu, the present tourist spots like Mansar Lake, Surinsar Lake, Jhajjar Kotli, Bagh-e-Bahu, Purmandal needs up gradation of tourist facilities which are as per the requirements of the time. Proper and adequate accommodations along with facilities like standard restaurants and good eating facilities are needed at all such spots along with an adequate public transport facility. Tourism as the mode of economic activity holds a very important position in Jammu and Kashmir’s economy. With increased tourist facilities tourism can reach to the people of Jammu. This requires planning, promotion, marketing and creating favourable environment, so that tourism development can play a major role in the economic development of Jammu. Under the present dispensation of governance, the people of Jammu do expect that tourism sector will be considered as an important sector to be developed on priority basis in Jammu division. A positive referral instance of such a development is that just a few days back the Lt. Governor of J&K Union Territory inaugurated the operation of the much awaited cable car project between Bahu and Mahamaya Temple. People of Jammu are highly thankful for the same. Let us equally pray for the return of the old pattern of tourism culture in the valley of Kashmir.
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