Uncertainty On Borders Casts Shadow On Tourism

Uncertainty On Borders Casts Shadow On Tourism

24 November 2013
The Tribune (Chandigarh)
Sumit Hakhoo

Jammu: Heightened tension between India and Pakistan along the international border in Jammu and Kashmir, in recent months has cast its shadow on tourism, with the project of developing border areas of Jammu as tourist destinations taking a major hit. In 2009, the Union Tourism Ministry, under the plan to develop Suchetgarh and the shrine of Baba Chamyal in Samba district along the Indo-Pak border, had sanctioned ‘Development of Border Area Tourism Circuit, Jammu’ project to attract tourists to the area. However, the venture still remains far from being complete. It was proposed to develop the Suchetgarh Octroi outpost on the lines of the Wagha crossing in Amritsar, Punjab, but the uncertainty along the borders has sowed seeds of doubt among the authorities, who are now hesitating in organising trips to the villages close to the international border. “I cannot comment when Suchetgarh will turn up like the Wagha, but nearly 100 people visit the area daily. Work on other projects is going on,” Director, Tourism, Sojanya Sharma said. He added that the final decision in this regard rests with the government. Though the Minister for Tourism GA Mir inaugurated the newly built infrastructure along the border in Suchetgarh earlier this year, several other schemes related to the project, particularly the widening of roads, tourist accommodations and children’s park close to the post has not come up till now. A sum of Rs 3.5 crore has been spent on upgrading the infrastructure in Suchetgarh and its surrounding areas since 2010. Suchetgarh was an important trading point between Sialkot and Jammu before the partition and after the 2003 ceasefire agreement between India and Pakistan, the state government submitted a plan to the Centre in 2005 to develop the area on the lines of the Wagah border crossing in Amritsar. Hundreds of tourists visit the outpost every month, but the uncertainty along the fence has made tourism officials hesitant about organising border trips to some of the prominent sites in the villages close to the international border. The Tourism Department had claimed last year that around 2,000 tourists visit Suchetgarh every month, while thousands of people from both the countries pay obeisance at the Chamyal shrine annually. Member of Legislative Assembly from Suchetgarh, Sham Choudhary alleged that government was never sincere about developing the sector. “Government is not sincere in completing the project. Leave aside the border tensions, I have never been consulted and nothing has been done to create infrastructure around this constituency to tap tourism potential,” Choudhary said. Border tourism The Union Tourism Ministry, under the plan to develop Suchetgarh and the shrine of Baba Chamyal in Samba district along the Indo-Pak border, had sanctioned the ‘Development of Border Area Tourism Circuit, Jammu’ project to attract tourists to the area. However, the venture still remains far from being complete It was proposed to develop the Suchetgarh octroi outpost on the lines of the Wagha crossing in Amritsar, Punjab Several schemes related to the project, particularly the widening of roads, tourist accommodations and children’s park close to the post have not come up till now The Tourism Department had last year claimed that around 2,000 tourists visit Suchetgarh every month, while thousands of people from both the countries pay obeisance at the Chamyal shrine annually