Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Tourism 101

It should be obvious that without recreational sports even a beautiful meadow can lose its luster

‘No Adventure Sport Makes Gulmarg Boring’

Asem Mohiuddin

Gulmarg: As the name Gulmarg strike to your ears, the mesmerizing beauty, scenic splendors and serene atmosphere is what you may imagine. But think again. This world famous hilly tourist spot in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district is gradually losing its sheen due to official apathy and lack of proper infrastructure.

As one descends into this green valley to charm the art of nature, the open disposable on roads, piles of horse dung, water stagnation and foul smell is all that greets the visitors.

The tourists visiting the place complains that this splendid valley has almost lost its charm as it has turned into the garbage dump and causes much inconvenience to them owing to lack of basic infrastructure like roads, culverts .

“It is unfortunate such beautiful place is not maintained well. There are no dustbins visible for litter. Horse dung is lying everywhere on roads and dumping water smells foul,” said Neharika, a Hyderabadi tourist, who is here for holidays.

She said that she visited the place fifteen years back; however, even after this many years she sees no improvement in the infrastructure.

“I had been to this place when I was a kid. It was all greenish and charming. Today, I see all it has been defaced with unnecessary erection of fencing, no maintenance of places, said she.

Her husband Aalish who visited the place first time said that instead of defacing this mesmerizing beauty, the management should have improved the road connectivity as they are in dilapidated conditions.

“There are no information boards about the places which force non local tourists to take the support of local horseman against the hefty charges. The roads are in bad conditions with no littering spaces,” he said while showing littering he compiled in his bag.

He suggested that as the tourist influx to this place is very high and the management should have designed maps, erected information boards and kept professional guides for the assistance of tourists.

“We wanted to explore the place fully but owing to the absence of information boards and maps we sought the support of local horseman. Horsemen are highly bargaining and demanded Rs 3600 for one horse for three hours. When we refused finally they agreed to provide two horses against Rs 500 each,” he said.

Suman another tourist from Delhi said that the place is boring as it provides no active entertainment.

“How long a tourist would like to stay here without any further entertainment apart from enjoying the beauty of nature? There should also have some recreational parks, museums and adventurous sports activities to enthrall the visitors,” she said.

Pertinently, once being the hot destination for local tourists, Gulmarg witnesses the feeble rush of locals as the place is considered dreary with no active entertainment to offer.

“How long we will visit to see this place. There is nothing new it is all boring now,” said Zahoor Ahmad who visited place more than a dozen times.

However, showing helplessness in controlling the horse dung on roads, sources in the Gulmarg development authority said that the presence of more than 50,00 horses have really made their job difficult to maintain spotlessness.

“They have a strong union and whenever, we take steps for the maintenance of spotlessness and impose restrictions and guidelines to them they go on strike and forcibly halt the functioning of system. So we are helpless,” authorities said.

The Chief Executive officer, Gulmarg Development Authority, Mahboob Ahmad said that the departments suffer with shortage of manpower which causes difficulties in maintaining spotlessness.

“We have only thirty casual labors for maintaining spotlessness that is very less. Now we plan to outsource the sanitation,” he said

Mahboob said that for road improvement the tenders have been floated and within next few weeks all the roads would be magdimized. He said that horsemen have been banned for plying on roads and in case they violate law would be imposed with fine.

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