KOKERNAG: While the government is mulling to identify and develop more tourist spots in Kashmir Valley, Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) continues to occupy a vast chunk of land belonging to the Tourism Department at this famous tourist destination in south Kashmir.
In 2003, the then-government allotted 10 kanals of land to Jammu and Kashmir police along the main road at a little distance from the famous Kokernag tourist spot.
However, insiders in the department said that after the land was provided to police, CRPF also established the camp there and slowly laid hands on a vast chunk of the land illegally.
“Paramilitary forces initially had established a camp only on the allotted patch of land, but with the passage of time they occupied around 54 kanals of land,” a tourism official told Kashmir Reader.
He said that occupation of the land at a prime location along the main road hampers the development of the tourism infrastructure in the area.
“The area under paramilitary occupation could have been used for construction of various facilities without which tourists visiting the area face a lot of inconvenience,” said another tourism official. “It is an irony that the forces are not only hampering the development of tourism infrastructure by occupying a vast land but they also don’t pay any rent to the department.”
“You can see most of the tourists particularly locals preparing the food of their choice inside the garden as no restaurants or food stalls where they can have the same are available in the area. If freed, the land under the occupation of CRPF can be used for the construction of such facilities,” the official said.
The officials many a times, insiders said, raised the issue with the CRPF but the forces neither vacated the land not paid any rent.
“One wonders what is the fun of having huge military camps at a tourist spot that too around a garden which remains flooded with tourists,” said Mushtaq Ahmad, a local.
The CRPF personnel have also placed tin barrels in a zigzag manner on a long stretch of the busy Anantnag-Kishtwar road, making the traffic movement very difficult.
“They have virtually blocked the road, illegally. This also creates a bad impression among the tourists visiting the area,” said a local shopkeeper.
Director tourism Kashmir, Mehmood Ahmad Shah, confirmed that the land was occupied by CRPF.
“I got it confirmed and it is true: CRPF has occupied much more land than what actually had been provided to them,” he told Kashmir Reader.
He said that they have requested the deputy commissioner Anantnag to fix the rent that CRPF should pay to the department.