National Conference on Sunday asked Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and her Government to look beyond elitism and collusion with crony capitalists and her family friends in the name of tourism promotion in the State.
In a statement issued to KNS, ‘Nawa-e-Subha’ in Srinagar on Sunday, NC State Spokesperson Junaid Azim Mattu said recurring splurges by the Chief Minister and her Government including private guest galas and private tours in times of a severe, unprecedented Tourism distress in the State was unbecoming, utterly insensitive and shameful especially in light of a complete lack of vision to resuscitate the Tourism Sector.
“Having dinners in five star hotels with her family friends and business associates of her crony cartel should not be passed off as Tourism promotion. Between the Chief Minister and her brother now, the Tourism Sector remains vision-less and directionless. The PDP-BJP Government has failed to create any new infrastructure in the sector and remains invested in being directed and guided by a few rich, influential and powerful businessmen who decide on everything ranging from high-level transfers, to allocations, permissions and these unproductive, wasteful tours in the name of tourism promotion”, the NC State Spokesperson said in the statement.
The NC State Spokesperson said successive NC-led Governments in the State had focused on asset and infrastructure creation in the Tourism sector – both in the public and the private domains and had worked with local stakeholders to create a bottom-up capacity augmentation that eventually resulted in record tourist inflows. “Contrary to that, the PDP-BJP Government remains obsessed with a few rich businessmen close to the Chief Minister and her family who run the Tourism policy for the State Government to exclusively benefit themselves at great costs to the sector at large. This Government considers it below its dignity to work with small and medium range hoteliers, houseboat owners, travel agents and shikara-waalas in first understanding what needs to be done and then using their vast experience, established networks and expertise to revive the Tourism Sector. The Government has allowed itself to be hijacked for pecuniary benefits through collusion, corruption and nepotism while our hotels remain vacant and thousands of families are deprived of livelihood”, the NC State Spokesperson added.
“The concept of exclusive elitist tourism promotion that entails direct chopper services to Gulmarg and Pahalgam from Srinagar is yet again an indication of both the Chief Minister’s disconnect and her lack of insight. Firstly the overwhelming majority of tourism inflow into Kashmir comes from the middle-class and working-class segments who need to be attracted to the State through comparative-cost-incentives, affordable services, goad road connectivity and a wide spectrum of lodging options. The CM splurging the taxpayer’s money along with her brother and their private guests in lavish hotels within the State and outside the State will not help in achieving these pre-requisites. Secondly, how will the Tourism Sector survive when you aim to rob our Taxi drivers, shikara-walas, pony wallahs and local travel agents of their livelihood for your Page 3 circuit tourism policy – if at all it can be called a policy”, the NC State Spokesperson further said.
The NC State Spokesperson said that the State Government should also realize that it is accountable for every single penny it spends in the name of Tourism Promotion in the State in view of a complete and total lack of results since the past three years. “The Government should also involve houseboat owners, small and medium level hoteliers, shikara-wallahs and pony-wallahs in such tourism promotion initiatives --- which would provide them some succor and business too rather than making the rich even richer. While our Finance Minister has broken all records of crony capitalism and has sold the entire financial system, including our institutions, to the service of a business cartel close to the Chief Minister and her family – the Government should tread with caution before it ends up completely wrecking the Tourism Sector”, the statement further read.
“We hope the Chief Minister accepts her utter and complete failure in governing this State and changes track. We stand at the precipice of an unprecedented economic recession and our financial institutions will collapse if drastic measures are not taken in a timely manner – which seems a tough goal given how the Central Government, in partnership with an insensitive State Government abandoned the State’s business fraternity and tourism industry after the devastating floods of 2014. A deferment of monthly installments alone in light of recurring uncertainty and recurring failed tourism seasons due to the PDP-BJP Alliance's disastrous policies is a recipe of disaster not a solution – both for the borrowers and operators in the Tourism Industry as well as for our financial institutions", the NC State Spokesperson said.
The Government needs to get its act together before it’s too late. Recurring tailor-made offers of loan amnesty and waivers crafted for a select-few crony capitalists shouldn’t be distorted as the Government’s magnanimity towards the Tourism Sector but should be a matter of shame for a Government which has seen the multifold increase of the State’s fiscal deficit to more than 8,000 crores today. We all know about the apparent quid-pro-quo financial arrangements behind these tailor-made, kind-hearted initiatives of the Minister”, the NC State Spokesperson said.