13 years of inaction end with dashing of hopes of saffron growers, artisans, locals
Anantnag: Thirteen years after the foundation stone was laid for an International Trade Centre (ITC) in Sempora area of Pampore, the project has been shelved and new process initiated to use the 300 kanals of land for an “IT hub”.
The ITC project was approved by the then United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in New Delhi in 2007. The same year, then Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad laid the foundation stone. The project was to be funded under the central government’s ASIDE (Assistance to States for Development of Export Infrastructure and Allied Activities) scheme.
“Rs 29 crore was earmarked for the project and, as far as my information, Rs 5 crore had been released. But the land lay vacant with only a boundary wall constructed around it in all these years,” a source in the Industries and Commerce Department of Jammu & Kashmir told Kashmir Reader.
The source said that the scheme named ASIDE was shelved and a new scheme was launched in its place, with the name of Trade Infrastructure for Export Scheme (TIES). “A fresh DPR and then a feasibility report was sought in 2018 by the centre. Both were submitted and there was hope that things would move quicker on this front. But nothing was done,” the source, who was not privy to new developments related to the IT hub, told Kashmir Reader.
The Industries and Commerce Department has now taken over the land on the directions of the Union Territory government, which intends to create an Information Technology hub there. “We have recently taken over the land on the directions of the government and we have been told that the place will be developed as an IT hub,” Director of the Industries and Commerce Department, Nazim Zai Khan, said.
Khan said that 30 kanals of land from the total 300 kanals have already been transferred to Jammu Kashmir Information Technology Development Corporation (JKITDC) for building a “twin tower”.
“They will soon start working and they have to construct the towers in collaboration with some other agency,” Khan told Kashmir Reader. “Besides, we are still in the process of taking over the remaining land as it falls in two districts, Pulwama and Srinagar,” he added.
Khan said that the land will soon be given to either SIDCO, SICOP or JKITDC, “whichever the government deems fit.”
“This is the plan for now. Let’s see how it gets executed,” Khan said.
Saffron growers in Pampore expressed dejection when they came to know about the shelving of the ITC, for they had serious hopes pinned on the project.
The ITC was a purported game changer as buyers from across the world were supposed to visit the place, where Kashmiri farmers (saffron growers in particular) and artisans would have showcased their products to garner attention in the international market.
“We are still dependent on visits to Delhi and other places to sell our produce. Had this project been taken seriously, many of us would have preferred to sell our produce here rather than going to different states to find buyers,” Abdul Khaliq, a saffron grower in Pampore, told Kashmir Reader.
He said that artisans, dry fruit growers and others would also have benefited from the ITC as middlemen would have been taken out of the equation. “It is really unfortunate that such a project has been shelved,” he said.
The people of Pampore are also a dejected lot as they had believed that the town would develop around the centre. “It would have brought huge opportunities for the people of Pampore in particular and for Kashmiri people in general,” a resident of the town said.