May 3, 2015 5:55:58 pm
With an aim of boosting tourism in the state, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed today asked Bollywood to do ‘ghar vapsi’ (return) to the valley as he talked about various measures, including holding of a corporates’ meet on the lines of Davos.
He told tour operators here that perception about the situation in Kashmir needs to be changed and asked them to visit the valley to see the condition themselves rather than falling prey to an impression created by TV news channels.
“Perception matters and it needs to be changed,” he said.
Sayeed said a number of measures were proposed for encouraging tourism, which include flying of chartered planes by the state government and throwing open his own official residence for ‘destination wedding’.
As part of the initiatives, he spoke about holding an ‘Indian Davos’ for natioal corporates at Gulmarg, 48 KMs from Srinagar city.
“I am not holding a business meet akin to that held in Davos (Switzerland) but I can always bring my Indian corporates there sometime next year and hope Prime Minister and Finance Minister will also attend,” Sayeed said.
Inviting film makers to shoot movies in the Valley again, the Chief Minister said “I want ‘ghar vapsi’ (return home) of all my Bollywood people to the Kashmir Valley.”
He recalled that when he was the Chief Minister earlier between 2002 and 2005 he had met late Yash Chopra. “It took six years for his perception to be changed and he shot his film there,” he added.
“Similarly, when I was in Mumbai recently, I met many film stars including Shahrukh Khan and asked him to come. Salman Khan is there. I am hopeful that this perception changes. It takes long to change people’s perception. What my government intends to do is to change it,” he said.
The Chief Minister supported the idea of his Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu, who had said in his speech before him, that the state government will be flying chartered planes with a fixed price of about Rs 5,000 so that prices of other airlines are under check.
The Chief Minister said his official residence ‘Hari Nivas’ will be used for organising destination wedding. “The state government will outsource it and people can avail of this opportunity.”
The Chief Minister noted that the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, with a view to encourage tourism in Kashmir, had asked all parliamentary panels to hold one meeting in the Valley.
Coining a new word ‘conference tourism’, Sayeed said “the corporates are very important segment of our country. I will call them to make Jammu and Kashmir a destination for board meetings and other works.”
He said the state government will be soon starting helicopter service to tourist destinations like Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Sonamarg. High-end tourists can come and hop in to these picturesque places, play golf and join their duties back on Monday, he added.
Among other measures for promotion of tourism, Sayeed said his government was looking at a possibility to have night landing facility at the Srinagar airport.
“We hope that flights can take off as late as 10.30 PM to target tourists who want a brief relief from daily hustle-bustle,” he said.
Describing Kashmir as a “mini-India” because of its diversity of region and religion, the Chief Minister said there was a need to change people’s perspective on security situation in the state.
“Agar jism ka ek hisse me koi takleef ho to pure jism ko takleef hoti hai (If one part of body is in pain, then whole body suffers),” Sayeed said.
He said efforts are being made to ensure that the heavy presence of security forces on ground does not give a wrong feeling to any visitor.
“Whenever one reaches Srinagar airport, he sees gun-totting commandos. There is no rule of forces in Jammu and Kashmir. They are there for maintaining peace and security. Though we cannot compromise with country’s security, but you will find some change on ground when you come there.
“I have told my people there is no need for such kind of security. We may change the colour of uniform or may be the way they guard the airport. So we are working on it. We know that the first impression is the last impression. So we are making changes,” Sayeed said.
The security force personnel should be facilitators and not make visitors afraid, the Chief Minister said.
He said the state government will also promote adventure tourism which includes holding car rallies and trekking expeditions.
“We also want the culture of Kashmir to be reflected and we may soon have cultural evenings at places like Char-Chinar and Son lankar (islands within the famous lake), Mughal gardens like Nishat and Shamilar,” he said.
Sayeed also said that his government will promote tourism in Jammu region independently and also open an international yoga centre to woo foreign tourists.
Drabu, while responding to queries of tour and trade community members, said the state government was also exploring the possibility of conducting IPL matches in the state. “We are very seriously looking at the possibility,” the state Finance Minister said.
He said tourists’ foot fall is the indicator of normalcy in the state. “There is a need to bridge the gap between reality and perception. We are fighting different battles in the state, the battle of ideology and all. But the biggest battle which we are fighting is against perception. We need to change the negative mind set about Kashmir.
“We don’t have to sell Kashmir as tourist destination. It is a pre-sold destination. But change in perception is needed,” Drabu said.
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