Early Times Report
Srinagar, Aug 28: The Kashmir Inc. on Friday slammed J&K Finance Minister for ridiculing the sobriquet "Kashmir is paradise on earth."
The minister, while speaking at a function on Thursday, had said that promotional campaigns like roadshows had achieved nothing and locals should not blame national media for negative reporting. "Kashmir should be made a safer place for people who live here. If it is not paradise on earth for local people, how can it be paradise for visitors," he had said.
Reacting to the minister's remarks, the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries in a handout issued after a joint meeting of various tourism bodies said he has portrayed Kashmir tourism in a "very poor shape" and that his statement has hit prospects of tourism activities in the Valley. The handout said KCCI called an emergency meeting under the chairmanship of its president Sheikh Ashiq to express "grave concern" over the minister's statement "wherein he portrayed Kashmir tourism in a very poor shape especially expressing his view on the security concern of the state, more particularly Kashmir." "The sincere and personal efforts made by Chief Minister (Mufti Mohammad Sayeed) and the Department of Tourism in promoting Kashmir Tourism is apprehended to get adverse impact with slowdown in arrivals of tourists as a result of Finance Minister's statement," the KCCI said, adding that the matter would be brought into the notice of Chief Minister.
"The delegation of travel trade under the leadership of president KCCI will soon meet the Chief Minister to express their concern in person so as to highlight factual position regarding safety and destination upbeat (in Jammu and Kashmir)," the handout said.
"At no point of time security is the reason (for) poor arrival of tourists. It needs to be appreciated that Amarnath Yatra has been most peaceful this year," it said.
Those present in the meeting included the heads and representatives of KHARA, KHAROF, JK Hoteliers Club, TAAK, JKTA, AKTO, UTAA, DTOAK, ATOAK, Pahalgam Hoteliers Association, National Chapters of TAAI, IATO, ADTOI, & Jt. Secretary General of KCCI, the KCCI Joint Secretary General Faiz Ahmad Bakshi said.
Terming the minister's statement 'disgraceful', the Travel Agents Society of Kashmir president Showkat Pakhtoon said, "Such people who lived in cozy apartments don't know how we have been giving our sweat and blood to revive tourism in Kashmir. These people only know to make statements, which make no sense, but bring disrespect."
On Thursday, the Finance Minister had said that promotional campaigns like road shows had achieved nothing and locals should not blame national media for negative reporting.
"Set your house in order first. Instead of organizing road shows and making big announcement, we need to set things right at local level first," said the minister while speaking at the daylong "First Global Conclave" organized by PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry here. The PHD Chamber is led by prominent Kashmiri businessman Mushtaq Chaya who had hosted the event.
The minster also criticized tourism players for crying foul about 'negative publicity' by national media. He asked them to improve services instead. Deputy Chief Minister, Dr Nirmal Singh and Minister of Industries and Commerce, Chander Prakash Ganga were also present on the occasion.
Meanwhile, rumour mills are rife that Chaya had hosted the event so that it coincided with the visit of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi to Kashmir. Insiders alleged that Chaya wanted to give platform to Dr Nirmal Singh and the Finance Minister when Gandhi was in Valley.
Sources said Chaya wants to keep Nirmal Singh in good humor so that his upcoming construction works in Srinagar are executed hassle-free.
But Chaya refuted the allegations. He said the event was aimed at promotion of tourism. "In fact, Chief Minister sahib was the chief guest but due to his busy schedule they (Dy CM and FM) turned up," Chaya told Early Times.