The beginning of a change

Putting Kashmir on the tourism map will be the new challenge for the new ministry

Arshad Dar
Srinagar, Publish Date: Jan 21 2018 10:51PM | Updated Date: Jan 21 2018 10:51PM
The beginning of a changeFile Photo

The revenue generated by tourism in Kashmir in 2016-17 is $1.16 billion. This is particularly significant when viewed in the context of what the situation was just a decade ago. Supplanting the state economy by almost 8%, Tourism is a founding pillar for Jammu & Kashmir State’s GDP which in turn climbed up to $14.46 billion for the fiscal year 2014-15. But the same optimism isn’t mirrored by the unpredictable politico-social atmosphere of the state. Scattered events of intense clashes and the ever burning issue of militancy have always had their dampening effect on selling the image of the state as heaven on earth. Clearly the state tourism minister has more than what can be called handful to look into. Therefore, it isn’t surprising if the new Tourism minister is under significant public scrutiny. But the challenges pertaining to his new portfolio aren’t all the reason for this uncalled for perusal. The new minister is Tassaduq Hussain Mufti, the son of Former CM of J&K - Mufti Muhammad Sayeed & brother of the current Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti. With that the obvious nepotism debate has cropped up once again, though not without its reasons but significantly more because of the ease with which it allows far more remarkable factors to be swept under the rug.

Who is Tassaduq Hussain apart from being the brother of the Jammu & Kashmir CM? The youngest of four siblings, Tassaduq studied cinematography at the American Film Institute, New York. After his first film, Omkara, he was called the "most outstanding cameramen in India" by Ravi K Chandran, one of India’s best directors of photography. Throughout life, he has stayed away from his family's political capital in the Valley but continues to maintain that he got into politics because the time was right and that he needed to make some changes and make the world a better place to live in. That day, he told a huge gathering that he was joining politics because he was inspired by his father's idea of what Kashmir could be like. His vision is simple; to obtain economic progression we need to develop skills among the working class. According to him it’s almost anarchy since people aren’t recruited in consideration with their skills leading to some government departments being overstaffed and some being understaffed. This is what he plans to rectify. Other points in his agenda include improving the education imparted in government schools and economic infrastructure development but not at the cost of the environment.

An environmentalist at heart, he sees a terrific economic opportunity in ecological restoration. His heart lies in preserving the environment and the cultural heritage of Kashmir, and it’s been evident in his work in the disposal of solid waste material at Srinagar’s Achan dumping site and the Pahalgam tourist spot. His efforts to breathe a new life in the Srinagar Silk Factory which was established in 1860 and has been in a state of decay reflect positively on that as well. No nonsense guy who doesn’t shy away from acknowledging harsh realities and minces no words in addressing the issue. He doesn’t make promises the way politicians do and doesn’t even fit the description of a politician with his extremely simple and basic get up with brown bag slung over his shoulder and most importantly cares for the people who work for him. “We will win but not if you play with your lives," He said to a gathering of party workers while campaigning for the Anantnag Constituency. If that doesn’t say anything about the man’s ethics, then one might not know what does.

 

He was made the Coordinator of Chief Minister’s Grievance Cell in May 2017. Although the body was created in 2009, the spotlight has been following it hard ever since Mufti took over. Thanks to the System of Procedure (SOP) introduced by Mufti which has sped up and streamlined the process of complaint handling and increased the engagement with the people manifolds. Complaints reach the cell primarily through its online portal and also via telephone helplines, various social media accounts and letters. They are then forwarded to CHT where they are segregated according to the government department they concern. The departments are then contacted by the cell as the grievances are furthered to them. The complaints are put under “resolved” just by the virtue of them being forwarded to the respective departments. After which the issued is followed up twice and then summons are issued. The complainants are called personally to know whether they are content with the resolution. And the impact is profound. Even with no experience in politics his performance is impressive. And his commitment has started to rub on the people as well. His passion for the craft and the compassion for his people has helped him find the perfect balance between continuing to excel in cinematography as well as impart his duties as a minister judiciously. 

With his Incredible India tourism ad for Kashmir, he has put up an uncontestable point in favor of his appointment. Every frame oozes with serenity, beauty and an allure of grandeur. Never has Kashmir’s charm been done justice as well as it’s done here. Someone who captures it so delicately and captivatingly on camera can be trusted blindly with reins of Jammu & Kashmir Tourism. 

I for one am ready to see him as someone who finally has a say in governmental proceedings. This could be the beginning of a  change we have always sought.

(Arshad Dar is a student)