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Government initiatives give a fillip to tourism in India's Jammu and Kashmir
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 24 - 04 - 2021

India's Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) is returning back to the list of most desired tourist destinations in the country, especially for the domestic travel enthusiasts as a result of sincere efforts being made by the Indian federal government to bring in peace and development in the Union Territory following the abrogation of the Article 370 of the Indian Constitution.
This season, the increase in the domestic tourist inflow in the valley is quite surprising despite the surge in coronavirus cases.
However, the region still awaits the footfall of international tourists due to the coronavirus-related travel restrictions.
Tourism is a vital lifeline for Kashmir's economy, contributing nearly 10 percent to the region's GDP and generating employment for more than one hundred thousand people. It also caters to allied industries such as transport, handlooms and handicrafts.
The boom in the tourism sector has benefitted local people in the valley, especially youth.
The Indian Army and the administrative machinery of the Union Territory have rallied their support for the federal government efforts to boost tourism in the region
Recently, the Indian Army has taken a number of development initiatives in the Kashmir valley such as implementing the "Himayat" scheme, organizing disability camps, career counseling workshops, to name a few.
Under the "Himayat" program, the Indian Army sent 12 unemployed Kashmiri youth from Poonch district to Jammu for skill development training that included classes on personality development, English speaking skills, computer basics to make them educated and independent.
"Himayat" is a placement-linked free skill training program for a duration of 3 to 12 months for unemployed youth of Jammu and Kashmir and is being implemented by the government of J&K under the J&K State Rural Livelihoods Mission (JKSRLM). It aims at increasing the employability and economic independence of local unemployed Kashmiri youth from backward regions by improving their skill-sets and providing support for placement and self-employment.
Besides, the Indian Army in collaboration with a Pune-based NGO and South Kashmir Handicapped Persons Association's Anantnag wing recently organized a free 'mega disability care and medical camp' at Anantnag's Bijbehara in South Kashmir. During this disability camp, around 250 wheelchairs, 150 crutches, 230 hearing aids, 200 walkers and 200 walking sticks, were distributed among the disabled persons from Kulgam, Shopian, Pulwama and Anantnag districts of South Kashmir, who are largely from economically backward families.
Also, the Army organized a career counseling workshop for youth on April 10, 2021, in Jammu and Kashmir's Poonch region with the aim to motivate and guide the youth of Jammu and Kashmir and inform them about career opportunities.
Furthermore, as a goodwill gesture, a young Pakistani boy who had inadvertently crossed over the Line of Control (LoC) to the Indian side on April 4, 2021, was repatriated to the Pakistan side on April 7 by the Indian Army at Teethwal crossing in north Kashmir's Kupwara district.
Simultaneously, the Indian government in coordination with the UT government have rolled out a series of events to promote tourism in J&K. For example, the Union Ministry of Tourism organized a mega tourism promotion event titled "Tapping the Potential of Kashmir: Another Day in Paradise" in Srinagar from April 11 to 13, inaugurated by Lieutenant Governor (LG) of the UT Shri Manoj Sinha and Union Minister of State for Tourism and Culture Shri Prahlad Singh Patel.
The objective of the event was to showcase various tourism products of Jammu and Kashmir and promote it as the destination for leisure, adventure, eco, Wedding, films and MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) tourism.
The government-led initiatives have already started yielding positive results for the J&K people. While major tourist destinations around the world is suffering because of the coronavirus, Kashmir is having one of its busiest seasons ever. Apart from the famous Indira Gandhi Memorial Tulip Garden in Srinagar (the largest in Asia) and the adjacent ski resort of Gulmarg; remote areas in Kashmir are also witnessing an influx of tourists and this unexpected boom is proved to be a boon for the region.
Despite serious attempts by the central and UT governments to usher in an era of peace and development in the region, certain anti-national elements having violent leaning are hell-bent to destroy the peace and tranquility in the region.
It is known to all that Kashmir had long been a site for incessant conflict and violence that repelled tourists for decades. Several attempts have recently been made to bring back violence and conflict in the valley amid the current coronavirus situation, which is worrying.
For instance, the Indian Army and the Indian Border Security Force (BSF) foiled a narco-smuggling operation in J&K's Kupwara and recovered narcotics worth Rs500 million.
According to an official statement, this was the second consecutive busting of a "Narco Terror Mode" sponsored from across the Line of Control (LoC) in that week. According to some reports, these wicked designs to support militant organizations, have not only affected J&K youth but also those living on the other side of LoC who are actively involved in narcotics consumption and smuggling.
The negative forces are busy in chalking out malicious plans to fail the positive and pro-people developmental approach in Jammu and Kashmir. However, these nefarious designs have not succeeded in the past and any attempt to vitiate the peaceful atmosphere in the valley is likely to be rejected by the people of Kashmir. — Agencies

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