There is a need to build trust and ensure that problems of the Jammu and Kashmir tourism sector, which is on “ventilator”, are addressed at the earliest, experts said at a seminar on the economic situation of J-K after abrogation of Article 370 provisions.
Experts from various fields, including the travel industry, had gathered at the seminar “Kashmironomics”, which was held in the national capital recently, and they said the time had come to bury the past and look towards a better tomorrow.
The government on August 5 had abrogated provisions of the Article 370 that gave special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcated it into union territories of Jammu and Kashmi, and Ladakh.
Asif Iqbal Burza, who owns a chain of hotels in the Kashmir Valley, said tourism encourages people to people contact and integrates people culturally, socially and economically.
“We need to ask ourselves do we build these bridges of hope or break these bridges. We need tourists to visit Jammu and Kashmir, and share their stories and experiences about their travel as Kashmir, besides its natural landscape, has a unique cuisine, culture and way of life.
“From the government, the tourism industry needs serious handholding as it is on ventilator. We need bailout packages to survive these difficult times,” Burza said at the event which was held recently.
Chief Executive Officer of travel company Ebix group Naveen Kundu said he feels that it is time for private investors to step in.
“We have to take Kashmiris on board as without them it won’t happen. It is a futuristic society and an example to that is the convention centre that was built several years back.
“They knew that Kashmir could be promoted for holding conferences and meetings,” Kundu said.
The major onus of lifting up the ailing tourism sector is on private investors who need to step in and do the needful, he said.
Kundu also said that “we need to put the pain behind and its responsibility of every Kashmiri to restore the glory of Kashmir”.
“Whatever happened to Kashmir in last 30 years, I would say that we have taken Kashmir to the world and now, I think the time has come to take world to Kashmir,” he said.
Dr Ridwana Sanam, who runs a physiotherapy centre in Gurugram, spoke about picturesque Pahalgam.
“I had gone recently to this place and I found that children of people associated with trades such as pony walas are unable to go to school as they don’t have money to pay fees. We need to do something for them,” said Sanam, who hails from a village near this tourist place located in south Kashmir.
Trident group of industries chairman Rajinder Gupta, whose company is the country’s largest yarn spinners, spoke about the various sectors, including paper machine and pashmina manufacturing, in which Jammu and Kashmir can excel.
“There is a nice emotional slogan ‘Sab ka Saath, Sab ka Vikas’ (collective efforts inclusive growth) and I will add another line to it ‘Sab pe Vishwas (trust everyone),” Gupta said.
He said when “we talk about building peace and security, I believe dignity is also important”.
“I have known Jammu and Kashmir from every angle and I will say that Kashmir and Kashmiriyat is familiar to me,” Gupta said.
There is a “big hope” and “we can start afresh” by roping in people of the state, who, otherwise, see the government as the main source of survival, he said.
Gupta said an alternative has to be given to the youth and for that private players need to take the lead.
Former secretary at the Department of Economic Affairs R Gopalan said the new administration has a daunting task of creating an infrastructure in the newly carved out union territory and ensure a proper marketing strategy for making people to come to the valley.
“The administration has to keep its ears to the ground” and ensure the local needs are addressed while putting a vibrant economy of the place, he said.