Athwatoo (Bandipora): It feels pristine and reenergising to visit Athwatoo village, 12 kilometres from district headquarters Bandipora. The hamlet is tucked between mountains and the view is dominated by the Wular Lake, into which streams of crystalline water gush down from the slopes.
For about a decade now, the place has attracted a substantial number of tourists. Private hotels have come up and the place has turned into a resort, with many preferring a night stay. However, the tourist accommodation complex that the government set up here has not started functioning yet. It is ready but it has not been “inaugurated”.
Locals say the construction of the tourist complex began in 2009 and was complete in 2012. Since then, some repair has had to be carried out, as the idle structure gathers dust and weathers the harsh winters.
“The construction was completed in 2012 but it wasn’t inaugurated. Locals hoping to be benefited from increase in tourism were left disappointed. We don’t know if the government has forgotten us, or if it considers us as backward and undeserving,” Ghulam Rasool, village head of Athwatoo, told Kashmir Reader.
Abdul Ahad Lone, a resident of the village, said that the government promised in 2017 that the chief minister would come to inaugurate the tourist complex. “But our eyes got tired waiting,” Lone said. He alleged that the government was insensitive towards the people of Bandipora in particular.
According to the official information, the tourist complex which came up at a cost of more than Rs 4 crore is to provide affordable accommodation to tourists. “The complex consists of ten rooms with attached washrooms, furnishing, kitchen, dining halls, rain shelter shuts, retaining walls, guards, parking place, tile path, lawn and food court,” said the Chief Executive Officer, Wular Manasbal Development Authority.
Officials claim that “execution work is pending”, but a visit to the place shows that there is no execution work going on and the structure is fully constructed and only awaits inauguration.
The chief executive officer said that the “inauguration was pending because of furnishing and whitewash, which was to be done in 2016 but could not be executed due to various reasons.”
He added that funding for the project was given by both the centre and the state. He said the project will be inaugurated within 10-15 days by some dignitary.
Official sources shared that the complex is waiting for inauguration for the past one-and-a-half year. They said the tourism ministry has ignored several reminders to throw the complex open to the public.
Deputy Commissioner Bandipora, Sajan Hussain, told Kashmir Reader that he will take up the matter with the tourism minister.