Waste of public money

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With the superfluous spending- on Adnan Sami’s musical show, the state tourism department has committed yet another fraud in the name of tourism promotion. There is enough evidence to believe that the spending on promotion of tourism has remained a convenient tool for the authorities in the tourism department to drain off the public money for their personal comfort. It may not be going overboard to say that tourism is the one of the prime sectors that saw unprecedented spending by the government since the onset of militancy. To justify this scandalous spending, a false perception was created that tourism is the mainstay of Kashmir economy, and with the revival of tourism Kashmir economy that had suffered deadly blow due to militancy could get back on rails. “Revival of tourism” became a political slogan and people at the helm of affairs in the department took it as golden opportunity to loot the public money without being questioned. In the name of attracting tourists, road shows and so-called festivals were held in and outside the country. These were held to showcase Kashmir as “peaceful” and “worth visit” place. Besides, huge money was spent on publicity through advertisements in newspapers. This practice is going on in the department without any break. Only a handful of tourism officials benefited from this pomp and show of tourism. Nothing can be more corrupt and criminal than the way tourism department spends on this pretext. The department escapes the watchful eye by pleasing ministers (including chief minister), senior bureaucrats, high officials and other watchdogs through extended invitations to long distance (tourist) festivals spending extravagantly on them. At the end of the day, when you take stock of this spendthrift and the return you get from it, you would be told—the abnormal situation came in the way of tourist inflow. Can the government say how many tourists got motivated by the publicity ventures of the tourism department to visit Kashmir and how much our economy gained through it? The answer is blunt zilch. It is the safest way to corruption, and dishonesty of the highest order that is going on in the government with no accountability from any side. All the studies and surveys conducted in the state have shown that tourism is no major contributor to our economy. It contributes less than 3 percent to our overall economy. The state tourism department, after the collapse of so-called tourist industry in the wake of militancy, conducted a survey in early 90s, which showed that hardly around 10,000 people were directly and indirectly associated with tourist trade. If a similar survey is conducted even today, the conclusions would not be too different. People associated with tourist trade could be counted on finger tips. A limited chunk of people in and around Dal Lake in Srinagar, and some hoteliers, shopkeepers, taxi drivers and labourers (including poneywallas) in Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Sonamarg are all who are related to tourist industry. They do not form even one percent of our overall population. There are no two opinions about the fact that Jammu and Kashmir requires development at all levels and in all sectors including tourism but overemphasizing a least important sector would serve no purpose. It appears that people at higher levels have either got influenced by this false propaganda or have a method in madness—to enjoy and entertain under this garb. Tourism is simply a political slogan. Initially it was raised to underline the disadvantages of militancy. Since militancy has come down to a substantial level, it is time for the powers-that-be to address proper issues people of the valley are facing. The spending made on false propagation by organizing musical show the one (Adnan Sami) we witnessed last week, government should place its priorities right. Government respond to common queries that what it got in return for spending crores of rupees on Adnani Sami show. A handful of ministers, senior bureaucrats, media persons, security staff of the guests were all to make audience for this “grand show”. Had this money been spent on hospitals or pellet victims, it could have served a better purpose. It is time for the chief minister Mahbooba Mufti to have a re-look on the happenings in the tourism department. She could earn general public appreciation if she orders probe into the scandalous spending in the tourism department right from 1990.

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