A Potential Tourist Destination

Relying heavily on a few counted destinations not only over-exploits these destinations but limits the growth of the industry
"The place according to the locals has tremendous potential of being one of the best tourist destinations in the valley, offering a aesthetic experience to the visitors."
"The place according to the locals has tremendous potential of being one of the best tourist destinations in the valley, offering a aesthetic experience to the visitors." Special arrangement


Shikargah; “The Hidden Paradise” is an exceptionally attractive and beautiful potential tourist spot located approximately three kilometres away from the Tral town, in South Kashmir’s Pulwama district.

Situated at an altitude of 2130 meters from the sea level and around forty kilometres away from Srinagar, the beauty of this place is unique and quite distinguished from the already explored destinations like Pahalgam, Gulmarg and Sonmarg. It is situated at the junction of the Wasturwan Mountain surrounded by lush green forests.

Given the reliance of Jammu and Kashmir economy on tourism, the solution to sustainability is through the diversification of the tourist destinations. Relying heavily on a few counted destinations (like Pahalgam, Gulmarg and Sonmarg) not only over-exploits these destinations but limits the scope of growth of the industry.

For a long time the diversification element has been missing and rather very limited across the whole region of Jammu and Kashmir. Quite contrary to it, the unexplored and potential destinations are many and one the most unique yet under-explored is the Shikargah.

The place according to the locals has tremendous potential of being one of the best tourist destinations in the valley, offering a aesthetic experience to the visitors.

People residing in the adjoining areas relish their regular experiences with the distinctive natural beauty of the place. Each person has a story of liberation, happiness and ecstasy associated with the magic their surroundings possess.

But at the same time the limited exploration of the place is a matter of bother for the residents who highly look forward towards the opportunities to the unleash the value of their local bounty.

Literally connoting the meaning of a ‘hunting place’, Shikargah used to be the most cherished resting, gaming and hunting destination of the then Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, Hari Singh.

It was during the 1970s that he got built two bungalows at the Shikargah for his often visits and resting sprees. The bungalows were heavily invested upon and decorated by the most exquisite items.

The locals, however, confirm that during the peak periods of fragility across the region of Kashmir during the 1990s, an unidentified person once came and burnt down the bungalows. Though the bungalows could have added to the current charm of the place, they no longer exist!

Given such circumstances, it was decided by the government that the place be completely closed and sealed down. As such during the 1990s itself, the roads leading to this place were sealed and barbed wire was placed therein.

The roads to Shikargah remained closed for decades at a stretch. Much later in time during 2011, a half-hearted attempt was made and the road to Shikargah was opened up.

However, if the opening up or building of roads would have been the key to tourism busting, the economies of scenic destinations would have overtaken the crude-oil economies centuries earlier!

One of the major negative externalities hampering the development of Shikargah has been identified as the presence of the things that depict the disturbed situation of last many decades in the vicinity. As such, any person intending to visit the destination is first of all afraid of going through such points. A very small fraction of the tourists who come to learn about this place decide to visit but get discouraged as well.

During 2011, a Hangul Breeding Center was established within the domains of Shikargah. Heavy construction was carried out and a considerable amount of forest land was utilised for the same. On the completion of the project one single Hangul was brought in and put in the centre.

To begin with, as the word spread a lot of locals flocked in to see the Hangul! While the authorities could have taken this for a positive signal in developing the destination, their carelessness led to this Hangul falling prey to the tastes of a Leopard. Since then the centre is defunct.

The only visitors that have been regular to Skikargah over the years are the schools of adjacent area. The school authorities seek passes and permissions and take their students to Shikargah for annual school picnics and trekking etc.

From the tourism perspective, a highly dynamic and potentially vibrant tourist destination is not developing because of persistent lack of efforts and attempts on part of the public sector authorities.

The traders union of Tral has been urging the government to demarcate locations for the construction of shops, restaurants and hotels etc. in and around the Shikargah vicinity. The transporter association has been trying to raise the voice for the proper creation of public service transport facilities to the destination.

On the contrary, the tourism department has constructed huts, guest houses and washrooms in the Shikargah vicinity over time but none put to use.

There is ample scope to begin the exploration of the destination due in 2023 by beginning the construction of basic tourist amenities in the area. The government needs to simultaneously launch a mission to popularise-the-destination by undertaking widespread promotion.

The re-start of the Hangul breeding centre can be another big thing that the government can undertake to bring in tourist inflow in the area. The outcomes of this planned action will have positive economic impacts on the local economy of Tral as well as the whole of Jammu and Kashmir tourism economy.

(The authors are affiliated to the Department of Economics, Islamic University of Science and Technology J&K)

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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