Committee recommends tourism policy for J and K

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New Delhi, Aug 20 (UNI) Emphasising the need for a Tourism policy for Jammu and Kashmir, Sitaram Yechury, who headed the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture, today said the Centre should modify norms for release of funds to the state in view of its topography and difficult terrains.

It should also ensure that projects did not lag behind for want of funds at any time during the financial year, he told reporters here, after presenting the 140th report of the Committee, which deals with the Promotion of Tourism in Jammu and Kashmir to Chairman, Rajya Sabha.

Stating that the state had great potential for pilgrim tourism, the Committee felt facilities for pilgrims needed to be further expanded. It has recommended use of an alternative route to Kailash Mansarovar via Demchok in Ladakh, which the Centre should take it up with China, said Mr Yechury.

The Committee found that one of the major impediments of developing Leh as a major tourist destination was the non-availability of direct flight service between Leh and other major cities. ''To fulfil their non-commercial sector commitments, private airlines prefer mainly for Northeast, and ignore Leh and Andamans. It should be made mandatory for them to operate from these sectors,'' he said. He stressed that improving intra-connectivity between the three regions of the state, would help in their integration.

He also said there should be some regulation of fares for this sector and people of Jammu and Kashmir should be given relaxation in airfare on the pattern of Northeast region.

Expressing concern over the deterioration of the Dal lake ecosystem, the parliamentary body called upon the Environment ministry to formulate an Action Plan to control and manage pollution, desilting and de-weeding for conservation of the lake.

It also recommended suitable assistance to the shikarwals and houseboat owners in the form of soft loans to keep them running.

It also emphasised the need for bigger and organised hotels to attract tourists in the state and recommended provision of low-interest loans to private transporters for coaches and cars for tourists.

The Committee also asked the Government to make all efforts to advise all countries to cooperate and not issue negative travel advisories to its citizens in the wake of isolated incidents. ''The media also needs to be sensitised to de-link tourism from law and order situation,'' Mr Yechury said.

He said development of national highways in the state was not only necessary for promotion of tourism in the region but also a strategic importance for the nation. For this, the state should be given funds through a special mechanism and be put in non-lapsable category, as was being done for such areas in the country.

He said prescribing the fixed period of five years for repair of the NH in hilly terrain like that in Jammu and Kashmir was not practical as the roads there get regularly damaged due to frequent rainfall and snowfall. The committee therefore has recommended a special fund for road connectivity in Ladakh region from the Central Road Fund.

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