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''We will not sell an inch of land,'' says Baig

By Staff
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Srinagar, May 2 (UNI) The Jammu and Kashmir government today asserted that there was no question of putting on sale the world famous tourist resorts of Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Sonamarg, but will encourage lease and joint ventures to develop the infrastructure so that the state does not ''lag behind or be caught napping''.

Jammu and Kashmir Deputy Chief Minister Muzaffar Hussain Baig today addressed a news conference here to ''clear the air'' about the recent media reports suggesting that the world famous tourist resorts in the Valley were being put on sale.

''There is no question of sale. Law does not permit it. What is on sale is poverty and under-development, which we can get rid of.

We will not sell an inch of land. Why should we sell it?'' he said.

Mr Baig said the state government proposed to appoint a world known consultant such as KPMG to help in developing the infrastructure in the tourist resorts.

''We will consult the Union Tourism Ministry in engaging the services of a world famous consultant who will identify the various potential resorts in the state and suggest measures for their development,'' he added.

He expressed the hope that the situation would soon improve in Jammu and Kashmir, saying it was a matter of time now.

''But, should we be caught napping. Once the foreign countries lift the negative travel advisories, more and more people would like to come to the state, particularly Kashmir which has become a household name across the world. Are we ready for it. If the state government does not start taking action right now, we will not be ready in the coming ten years,'' the Deputy Chief Minister noted.

He said the Commonwealth Winter Games will be held at Gulmarg in 2010 and for that the infrastructure development process need to be started right now.

The French and British tourism experts, who had visited the state on March 5 this year, suggested that if Gulmarg was developed even Olympic Winter Games in 2016 could be held there, he added.

Mr Baig, who is also the state Tourism Minister, said it has been decided that 500 kanals of land in Gulmarg would be auctioned to the state subjects and the minimum price has been fixed at Rs ten lakh per kanal which could go up.

''But, when these people take land, they must have their plans sanctioned by a competent authority as it cannot be a random or a concrete structure. The heritage, ecology, environment, architecture and culture of the state will be kept into account,'' he added.

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