Srinagar: The cash-starved JK government is spending two crore on four tourism promotional events in the valley with experts calling for constitution of accountability committee to access the overall impact of such events.
The tourism department, which recently organized summer festival at SKICC had roped in Hans Raj Hans, who charged 7-lakh rupees for his performance in addition to airfare and hotel accommodation. According to an official, two crore is an earmarked budget for such events but it’s likely to cost more to the state exchequer.
“We paid 7-lakh to Hans Raj Hans for his performance on that evening. Basically, it would have been more but Indigo airlines sponsored his tickets along with his troupe of around 35-40 people. Similarly, accommodation was sponsored by our event partners. That way it didn’t have much impact on our budget,” Director Tourism Kashmir, Talat Parvaiz Rohella told Kashmir Reader.
The department organizes four seasonal promotional events in the Valley apart from holding fair exhibitions and road shows outside the State. The main focus of such events, as per tourism department is to showcase Kashmir as tourist destination. Since 90’s, when armed militancy hit Kashmir, tourist rush dwindled here. The US and European countries, whose natives used to be major visitors to the valley have put on advisory refraining their citizens from visiting Kashmir.
The expenditure for 4-tourism promotional events, Talat said is borne by state government. “We organize spring, summer, autumn, and winter festival to showcase our attractions and lure tourists to visit here. Such events promote and showcase culture, folklore, sufi music, heritage, historical monuments of this place. Unless we don’t have promotional events diversification of tourism is not possible. This year-spring and summer festivals- have already been held. Currently, there is no financial support for such events from Ministry of Union Tourism but we expect such thing happen in future,” he added.
Civil Society activist and former president Federation Chamber of Industries Kashmir (FCIK) Shakeel Qalandar justified such events but considered it “illogical” to hold events within the confines of SKICC. “Tourism department should have organized such events where common tourists don’t have access. Hans Raj Hans performed in a confined hall and the audience was local. So how could it promote tourism?” he questioned.
Qalandar demanded creation of accountability committee which would check the validity and benefit of holding such events.
Convenor Pilgrim and Leisure operators’ forum and Director Culture and Nature Expeditions, Nasir Shah considered it “futile exercise” due to lack of planning by the tourism department. “Technically, it doesn’t promote tourism as its scope is limited. There is no proper planning and publicity in advance like what we see in Ladakh and Gujarat festival. So, it doesn’t attract tourists,” Shah said.