Kashmir Will Soon Find Place In Worlds Top 50 Destinations: LG Sinha

Srinagar- Lieutenant Governor, Manoj Sinha said on Tuesday that Jammu and Kashmir was witnessing a new era that has opened limitless possibilities of growth and peace, and the day is not far when the Union Territory will find its place in the top 50 destinations in the world and will be on the bucket list of global travelers.

Addressing the 3rd Tourism Working Group (TWG) of G20 at the SKICC here on Tuesday, Sinha said that the development schemes empowering masses and Union Territory’s effective administration isolated the “terror eco-system which thrived with the support from across the border,”

“Now even foreign investments are also coming into Jammu and Kashmir, green shoots of better times people are anxiously looking up to,” Sinha said and underlined why J&K was selected by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the G20 meeting.

He also said that tourism in Jammu Kashmir is also a reflection of the multi-religious and multi-cultural ethos of India. The LG underlined the importance of peace for growth and tourism and said that tourism cannot grow in isolation

“The economics of it is fine, that tourism needs good infrastructure, sound policies and effective and responsive administration. No less fundamental to me is the fact that only peace and happiness of people can bring warmth in the hospitality, we Indians eternally enjoy,” he said

J&K, he said, stands today among the developed regions of India on some measurable milestones, and that his administration is committed for people’s prosperity both economically and socially.

“Prime Minister Modi has completely eliminated injustice, exploitation and discrimination which several sections of society faced for seven long decades owing to circumstances that evolved mostly because of orchestration from abroad. We are ensuring social equality and equal economic opportunity to all citizens, which is also enabling them to contribute to the nation building,” Sinha said

Throwing light on the transformation of J&K, the LG said that the grass root democracy has been strengthened; new industries are coming up, rapid agricultural growth is making our villages prosperous, new institutions have been opened up in higher education, youths are being trained for Industry 4.0 technologies, infrastructure development is progressing rapidly and our emphasis on technology is transforming Jammu Kashmir into a digital society.

Expressing his gratitude to PM Modi, Sinha said that in the past 4 years, the ranking of J&K on the various parameters of sustainable development goals have gone up due to the visionary leadership of PM.

“The world can see that the entire society, especially the young generation is scripting a bright future for themselves and the nation. The speed and scale of rapid development in Jammu Kashmir are awe-inspiring. Our speed to execute infrastructure projects has gone up almost 10 times,” he said.

Acknowledging the impact of Covid on tourism and the world, the LG said, the pandemic made the world realize the hard way the virtues of traveler’s well-being and also the values of a shared vision One earth, One family and One future.

“The paradigm shift towards sustainable living, inclusive and sustainable development is also an opportunity to provide new impetus to sustainable tourism. I am truly delighted that under India’s G20 Presidency, the G20 Tourism Working Group is focusing on five inter-connected priority areas. Green tourism, digitalization, skills, tourism MSMEs and destination management will provide a roadmap for tourism as a tool for achieving sustainable development goals,” Sinha said.

He noted that J&K is already working on a few of the priority areas identified by the G20 Tourism Working Group like Green Tourism, Skills, Tourism MSMEs and Digitalization.

He emphasised that in the post-pandemic era five key building blocks will promote environmental awareness, protect the ecology and improve the economy and livelihoods of communities and inclusive growth of stakeholders.

Underlining that the G20 TWG meeting is taking place in the land of majestic peaks, crystal-clear lakes and serene green landscape, the LG said that J&K is more than a tourism destination.

“It is poetry. It’s a land of realisation. It is an energy field vibrating with the ageless Indian cultural values.  Under the guidance of Prime Minister Modi, we have ensured that the transition in the tourism sector in the backdrop of a pandemic focuses on the needs of travelers, interests of industry stakeholders, creates employment opportunities and promote environmental awareness,” he said.

The LG also referred to the record number of 18 million tourists visiting the Union Territory.

“Last year, the tourism sector made a 7% contribution to Jammu Kashmir GDP. We have identified 300 new destinations to promote green tourism, small & medium enterprises, youth and women entrepreneurs and involve local communities to support sustainable tourism,” Sinha said.

“Tourism sector in Jammu Kashmir has been accorded the status of Industry and all fiscal incentives as per our Industrial Policy and I can tell you, we are receiving massive investment proposals from the industries in hospitality sector,” he added.

The LG further said that after a long pause of almost 4-decades, J&K administration has revived the relationship with Bollywood and launched a film policy in 2021 to attract more investment into the film sector.

He said that over 300 movies were filmed in the region last year and such enthusiasm is bringing about a qualitative change in the lives of people.

“Our aim is to make the countryside and popular destinations more sustainable and preserve the beauty of fascinating heritage sites. I am confident, under the leadership of the Prime Minister, Jammu Kashmir will soon find its place in the top 50 destinations in the world and it will be on the travel bucket list of global travelers,” he added.

During the inaugural session Union Tourism Minister, G. Kishan Reddy; Union MoS Dr. Jitendra Singh; Union MoS Ajay Bhatt; G20 Sherpa, Amitabh Kant; G20 Chief Coordinator, Harsh Vardhan Shringla; delegates of G20 nations, invitees from observer countries and representatives from various multilateral organisations were present.

 Today’s J&K Not A Land Of Hartals Or Stone Pelters’

Sinha said that Jammu and Kashmir is no more a land of hartals or stone pelters due to the whole approach adopted by the government to dismantle the ecosystem of terror sponsored by the neighbouring country.

“I can confidently say that under the guidance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Jammu Kashmir is on the move. By adopting the whole government approach, the ecosystem of terror sponsored by our neighbour has been almost dismantled. Schools and colleges remain open allowing youth to focus on career building. Today’s Jammu Kashmir is not a land of hartals or stone pelters,” Sinha said.

Sinha said that he has been informed that the ongoing 3rd Tourism Working Group Meeting in Srinagar is the biggest gathering of foreign delegates so far.

“I think it is bigger than previous TWG meetings in Siliguri and Gujarat, and except China, all G20 nations delegates, representatives and other stakeholders of the tourism industry of the respective countries are participating in the event,” the LG said.

He said that he has also been informed that 57 delegates from 27 countries were participating in the G20 meeting at Srinagar which reflects India’s strength of ancient values of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’.

Expressing gratitude to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi for providing a historic opportunity to J&K to host the 3rd TWG meeting, the LG said that today’s inaugural session was very exciting and productive.

“The significant deliberation, exchange of views and perspectives will help in building a framework based on five priority areas for sustainable tourism as we advance towards post Covid pandemic era,” he said

J&K, Sinha said, is governed by the Constitution of India, which has established rule of law and supremacy of the people.

“It’s a land of peace and prosperity that responsible and responsive administration is trying too hard to bring in the lives of the people. Grass-root democracy has been growing from strength to strength. The three-tier PRI system has ensured stability and consistency in development and participation of people in policy making,” he said.

He said that the digital revolution has unleashed socio-cultural transformation, which has empowered every section of the society, especially the young generation.

“We have an open and vibrant press and more than 400 newspapers are published every day,” he added.

Asserting that Jammu Kashmir is fully committed to the effort to build on shared aspirations for sustainable tourism, the LG said that PM Modi has accorded highest priority to sustainable social & economic development of the Union Territory.

“In the last 4 years, policies and programmes have been reshaped so that the benefits of growth percolate to the masses and nurture the nature. In the tourism sector, there has been unprecedented increase in the tourist footfall after the second wave of covid pandemic and we were happy to host over 18 million tourists last year, which, I would say, was unparalleled since Independence,” Sinha said.

He said his government’s focus on green tourism, offbeat destinations, involvement of local communities, and according industry status to the tourism sector has turned this sector into one of the most flourishing industries in Jammu Kashmir.

“Our sustained reforms’, including a new film policy, modern infrastructure and ease of doing business has transformed Jammu Kashmir into a preferred destination for shooting of films, which is also strengthening the economy and providing employment opportunities to the people. Overall tourism offered a large number of employment and contributed around 7% to its GDP in the last fiscal year,” he said.

“With more than 65% of the population below 35 years of age, we are witnessing the emergence of a powerful force of youth that is contributing to invention, innovation and research,” he added.

Speaking on the sports activities, the LG said that 6 million youth participated in various sporting events across Jammu Kashmir while every district has a multi-purpose indoor sports hall. Gulmarg, he said, is being transformed into a world-class winter sports destination.

“We wanted to take our G20 delegates to Gulmarg and show them its scenic beauty but due to time constraints it may not happen this time,” he added.

Talking about grass-root level empowerment, the LG said that all 4292 Panchayats in J&K have a Youth Club to seize the opportunity globalization has to offer.

Besides, he said, the admin has also set up a dedicated department, Mission Youth, to help young men and women to achieve their dreams and build a vibrant society free from fear, discrimination and exploitation.

Lauding the guidance of the PM, the LG said that his administration has taken a very wide range of decisions to accelerate the implementation of mega infrastructure projects, modernization of health, agriculture, energy sector, and brought transparency and accountability in the governance system to script a new chapter of growth in Jammu Kashmir.

“Jammu Kashmir is future ready. And, Jammu Kashmir is ambitious. Our multi-sectoral achievements reflect that. We are registering a new start-up every other day. In the last four years, we have registered 7.7 lakh new entrepreneurs, which roughly means that per day 527 youth started their entrepreneurial journey to contribute to their individual and Jammu Kashmir’s growth,” Sinha said.

“And, this is not all. We are ensuring fast industrial development to bring rapid social transformation. On an average, we are receiving 7 to 8 applications every day from different industrial houses from India and abroad, who are willing to set up their facilities here. In 2022, on an average one industry became operational per day,” he added

In a very short span of time, the LG said J&K was advancing towards building a digital society. He said his government was offering over 450 public services in online mode. Our entire administration is paperless.

Giving further details, the LG said that in 2022, J&K recorded 1.2 million e-transactions per day while in the first 4 month of 2023, 2.3 million e-transactions have been recorded, which is higher than many other states.

“With more than 150 higher education institutions, two central universities, seven state universities and by establishing all premier educational institutions, Jammu Kashmir is ready to contribute to India’s knowledge economy,” he said.

He also referred to the acceleration of projects post 2019, saying it has gone up by times.

In 2018, the LG said, 9229 projects were completed whereas in the last financial year, 92,560 projects were finished. He said that his government is building an effective and efficient rural infrastructure and the number and fast-paced developments show UT admin’s resolve to build Aatm-Nirbhar Jammu Kashmir.

“We are working with innovative approaches to exploit our strength and empower our farmers. With sustained efforts in the last 2-3 years while managing pandemic, Jammu Kashmir figures in the top five states of the country in terms of monthly farm income,” the LG said.

“We are implementing 29 projects worth Rs.5013 crore, to increase farmer’s income by 4 times in the next five years. We are number one in terms of production of saffron, apple, walnut and almond in India, and industries in processing and value additions will provide new height to Jammu Kashmir,” he added.

Listing the empowerment of women as one of the achievements of his administration, the LG said that over 6 lakh women entrepreneurs through self-help groups are reaching global scales in terms of quality and output.

“Jammu Kashmir is becoming a centre and export hub for diverse goods, from agricultural products to handicrafts to horticulture produce. All these strengths have resulted in a greater integration with the global market, which has helped us to lay foundation for even better prospects ahead,” he said.

He further said that he would have outlined socio- economic achievements of Jammu Kashmir in some detail with a wish that it captures news mind and space tomorrow.

“These achievements also show that we are firmly resolved to continue with the reform process and accelerated development in every sector. Friends, this is just the beginning of the turnaround of Jammu Kashmir, the crown of incredible India,” Sinha said.

He also recalled a quote by Sri Aurobindo to conclude the presser.

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