Forces occupying prime tourist places in Kashmir: Minister

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Gulmarg, Oct 19 (UNI) Reiterating his party's demand for withdrawal of troops, Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Minister Dilawar Mir has said that security forces have occupied prime locations in tourist places, thus causing impediments in the growth of tourism in the state.

Addressing the All India Editors' Conference, here at this famed ski resort, Mr Mir said troops should be withdrawn to barracks and the authorities must ensure that there are not only vacant tourist places but orchards, schools and other public property.

Despite repeated requests to the Centre, he said the security forces have refused to vacate 400 acres of land at Gulmarg. ''This is a cause of worry and tourists feel intimidated by their presence,'' the Minister added.

The two-day all India Editors Conference was jointly organised by the Press Information Bureau (PIB) and the Jammu and Kashmir government from October 17.

Union Rural Development Minister Dr Raghuvansh Prasad Singh and Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad jointly inaugurated the Conference, in which about 40 Editors from across the country participated.

Mr Mir said some travel agents are ''sabotaging'' tourism industry in the state by painting grim political and security situation. ''These vested groups are advising the intending tourists not to visit the Valley. This is detrimental not only to the state tourism industry, but also to national integration,'' he added.

The Minister said the Centre was providing all possible help for the development of the tourism industry in Jammu and Kashmir.

Gulmarg, Pahalgam and many tourist places in Jammu and Ladakh are being developed as world class resorts, he added.

Tourism Director Farooq Ahmed Shah also made a presentation on the occasion.

UNI

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