February 2008 News

J&K has to open up for development: Azad

18 February 2008
The Daily Excelsior

GULMARG: Clearing the air on buying land in Jammu and Kashmir controversy, Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad today said there was nothing wrong in offering land on lease to outsiders for development purposes. 'We are not selling the land to outsiders, but it could be provided to them on lease for the development of infrastructure,' he said adding that Jammu and Kashmir has to open up to achieve all round development. 'We can not remain in isolation and have to take benefit of technological advancement for progress and prosperity', the Chief Minister said after inaugurating the fifth national winter sports games here. Mr Azadís clarification came after Deputy Chief Minister Muzaffar Hussain Baig, Incharge Tourism, had a few days ago in Delhi, said that there was a wrong notion that outsiders can not take land in the State. The statement had generated a controversy. Under the law, no outsider can buy land in Jammu and Kashmir for his personal use but it could be offered on lease for developmental activities. Referring to election in Pakistan, Mr Azad hoped that democracy would be restored in that country as it would help restore peace in the region. He was also confident of achieving peace with Pakistan. Mr Azad said the State Government would host a major international sports event in Gulmarg next year in which many international sports personalities were expected to participate. Mr Azad said the State is fortunate enough to have enchanting natural beauty as also a rich cultural and religious heritage which makes it a crown of India. Jammu and Kashmir offers a variety of experiences for the tourists which no other part of the world can offer so much, he added. He requested the participants and tourists, including those who had come from abroad, to act as ambassadors of Jammu and Kashmir and share their experiences with people of their area. Tell the people how peaceful, beautiful and hospitable Jammu and Kashmir is, he said and expressed the hope that this would encourage others to visit the State and go back with pleasant memories. Mr Azad said Kashmir has been the pioneer and backbone of Indian tourism because it offers more than just scenic beauty. He said more than 40 kinds of handicrafts are being made even today. The Chief Minister said tourists who come to Jammu and Kashmir want to take back a Kashmiri carpet, a world famous shawl, a beautiful wood or paper machie product. He said our famous chefs called waazaas can make 40 to 50 different types of meat dishes. Tourists, he added, are also fascinated by the experience of living in houseboat and sailing on shikara boats. 'We welcome tourists from every part of the country and abroad', he said and added that it was a matter of great satisfaction that Gulmarg has always remained peaceful even during the turmoil of which the State is emerging out now. He said Gulmarg had a reason to be peaceful for it is the Valley of flowers and flower is a symbol of peace and love. Mr Azad said it was the poet-king of Kashmir Yousuf Shah Chak who would come here with the legendary poetess Habba Khatoon and it is he who in 1581 first called this place Gulmarg meaning a meadow of flowers. Mr Azad invited the tourists to visit this place in spring and summer to have a real view of the meadow of flowers which is also an attraction for the golfers as it is one of the highest, famous and oldest golf course in the world. The Chief Minister said Gulmarg is a unique resort not only because of its location and surroundings but also because it is only one hour drive from the international airport of Srinagar. He said no other ski resort of this grandeur can boost to be so close to an international airport and also be so easily accessible. Earlier, Mr Azad declared open the 5th national winter games-2008 in which about 500 sportspersons, representing 18 teams from different parts of the country, will participate. Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president Suresh Kalmadi, besides a number of Ministers, senior bureaucrats and a large number of people, including a good number of foreigners, were present on the occasion. Earlier, sportspersons from host Jammu and Kashmir, Andhra Pradesh, Chandigrah, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Uttrakhand, ITBP, BSF, Navy, Dmas Manali, Indian Institute of Skiing and Mountaineering, Army and MSI took part in the march past. Olympion Gul Mustafa lit the games flame. The torch, which was flagged off by the IOA president Suresh Kalmadi at New Delhi on February 12 and handed over to veteran Jammu and Kashmir Olympian Gul Mustafa, reached here after travelling through Dehradun, Shimla, Jammu and Srinagar. The formal competitions will be held from tomorrow morning. Sky diving, Kashmiri songs and other colourful programmes marked the opening of the games. Mr Azad and Mr Kalmadi released a white pigeon as a symbol of peace on the occasion. Probables for the 2010 Canada Winter Olympic games will be selected during the National Winter Games at Gulmarg. Mr Kalmadi said this during the opening ceremony of the games here. Mr Kalmadi said Gulmarg has the highest down hill ski point connected by Gandola cable car in the world. It has best slopes in the world, he said and thanked the organisers for making all arrangements for the games-2008. He said out of 5 national winter games held so far, Gulmarg hosted three times. The probables selected during the games will be trained within and outside the country, he said, adding we will give our sportspersons training so that they could make the country proud in the 2010 Canada games. (Agencies)

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