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J&K govt shoots down delayed tourism projects, prioritises colleges, flats & industries

Tourism dept told to come up with only projects with ‘visible impact’, which ‘could be put to public use’, and on which ‘return on investment’ is obtained.

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New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government may be pushing for initiatives to encourage tourism in Jammu and Kashmir, but the administration of the union territory Tuesday shot down six projects worth Rs 66 crore that are pending with the tourism department.

The projects, related to reconstruction and renovation of the Mubarak Mandi in Jammu, were part of the languishing projects to be funded through the J&K Infrastructure Development Finance Corporation (JKIDFC).

The decision to reject them was taken at a high-powered committee meeting chaired by the financial commissioner.

According to the minutes of the meeting accessed by ThePrint, the J&K tourism department has been asked to prioritise projects that will have “visible impact and outcome” and “could be put to public use” and on which “return on investment” is obtained.

In June 2019, a meeting was held to discuss the status of 1,717 projects that were to be completed under the ‘languishing projects scheme’. The then-J&K State Administrative Council (SAC), in order to complete the languishing projects, had established the JKIDFC to raise loans worth Rs 8,000 crore.

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‘Purely administrative decision’

A senior official from the J&K administration told ThePrint that the decision was purely “administrative”, and did not intend to impede projects of a certain department — in this case, tourism.

The official added that the committee must have scrutinised the projects well before reaching the decision and would have realised that they were not feasible.

“The committee cannot mindlessly approve projects that are proposed. They push and release money for only those projects that are ready for execution. The projects that do not seem feasible are the ones that are rejected. In many cases the projects do not have an administrative approval… those too are shot down,” he said.

The official also said this does not mean the government is not serious about promoting tourism.

“These are just a few projects that have been shot down. This does not mean that further projects too will not be approved. It is an ongoing process, and projects that are promising will definitely be pushed,” he said.

Also read: Article 370 gone, BJP now wants to make Jammu & Kashmir a religious tourism hub

What was approved and what wasn’t

The J&K tourism projects that were shot down include renovation of the Raja Ram Singh Palace at a cost of Rs 11.67 crore, the restoration of its Darbar Hall for Rs 5.50 crore, the restoration of its central courtyard for Rs 13.10 crore, restoration of the Raja Amar Singh Palace for Rs 14.72 crore, and refurbishing the Dogra Art Museum, Badi Deodi, Royal Courts and Gadvai Khana for Rs 5.56 crore.

Another project was the restoration of the palace of Raja Ram Singh’s queens for Rs 14.83 crore.

While all projects listed by the tourism department were rejected, the committee approved all projects listed by the higher education department, the industries and commerce department and the estates department.

Projects worth Rs 23.45 crore of the higher education department, which include the construction of a Women’s Degree College in Jammu for Rs 14.48 crore and of a commerce block at Srinagar’s Amar Singh College for Rs 8.97 crore.

All the projects of the estate department, worth Rs 25.4 crore, were also approved, including the construction of 28 two-BHK flats at Sarwal, 28 one-BHK flats at Ahata Amar Singh, 28 two BHK flats at Lower Muthi, and the purchase of 32 three-BHK flats at the same location. These locations are all in Jammu.

However, the estate department was directed to furnish the per-square-foot cost of each project, and variations in bill of quantities among various projects being implemented by different agencies.

All projects of the industries and commerce department, including the completion of industrial estates in Khrew, Wuyan and Gangyal worth Rs 54.38 crore too were cleared.

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