Tourism department’s cafes lie desolate, taken over by drug addicts

Tourism department’s cafes lie desolate, taken over by drug addicts
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SHEIKH UZAIR

SRINAGAR: Providing a bird’s eye view of major parts of the city including the Maulana Azad Road, the Golf Course, and vistas of the old city against the backdrop of Dal Lake, the City View Cafe, also known as Rustum Garhi Cafeteria, atop the Dalgate hillock is lying in ruins.
Built at a cost of 45 lakh rupees, the cafeteria was thrown open in the year 2009 by the then minister for tourism and culture, Nawang Rigzin Jora, after remaining closed for about twenty years.
The cafeteria was to serve as “a major attraction for tourists”. It was to be used to “popularise traditional Kashmiri cuisine”. The lofty plans have come to nothing. The place lies desolate and has become a den of alcoholics and drug addicts, say those who live nearby.
Almost all the window panes of the cafe are broken. Some of them have been closed with wooden planks. The interiors are gathering dust and dog poop is scattered everywhere outside.
The stairways climbing up to the cafeteria from the main Dalgate road, which otherwise provide a panoramic view of the city, are now perches of hash-smoking youths who are here hidden from the public gaze by the bushes growing on the hill slope.
“The youths, including teenagers, climb uphill to smoke charas and consume alcohol and other substances,” said Mukhtar Ahmad, who lives in Dalgate area. “The place was quite happening when it was thrown open, but it is in a shambles now.”
An official source in the tourism department said that given the uphill location of the cafeteria, it is proving difficult to outsource its operations. “No one is coming forward to take it up, despite many attempts,” he said. “Although the cafe has a nice view but the stairways are a little difficult to climb. I don’t think people would prefer to go to such a place,” he added.
Director of Tourism, Jammu and Kashmir, Tassaduq Jeelani told Kashmir Reader that since the cafeteria could not be outsourced, it would be utilised for some other purpose.
“We will use it for residential purpose instead of as a food outlet,” Tassaduq said.
The cafeteria was opened in 2009 soon after the inauguration of another tourism department restaurant: Peerzoo Restaurant and Café, located in the heart of Srinagar on the Bund beside the Jhelum river.
Once thronged by a huge number of locals and tourists alike, the restaurant has been lying closed since 2016. The party that won the bid to run it, left it mid-way citing losses due to the 2016 uprising. Since then, no party has shown interest in taking it up, despite the tendered price having been lowered twice.

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