Top assets of Jammu and Kashmir tourism department, which are considered Valley’s cultural markers, are ready to be outsourced with the authorities completing almost all formalities.
Among them are Pahalgam club, Chashma Shahi huts and prestigious Royal Springs Golf Course located in Srinagar. These assets are currently under the control of J&K tourism department and Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Development Corporation (JKTDC).
Officials privy to the details of process said all formalities for outsourcing or running these assets on public-private partnership (PPP) mode have been finalised. “I don’t know the reason why these assets are being outsourced, but the department has already initiated the process,” said a senior tourism department official, who didn’t wish to be named.
While secretary, tourism, Sarmad Hafeez refused to comment on the development, it has been learnt that JKTDC managing director Minga Sharma had recently written to Royal Springs Golf Course secretary about outsourcing the club in a PPP mode.
The picturesque Royal Springs Golf Course has hosted several national and international events. Its beauty draws ace golfers from different places and most of the tournaments taking place in J&K are slated to be held there only.
With the Zabarwan range in the backdrop, the golf course is surrounded by kail and pine forests. Spread across 100 hectares, this 18-hole golf course has practice fairways of about 225 metres with three lakes, two marshes, a club house, and about 8.5-km-long cart path.
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti said the “sale” of the golf course was another example of how government was “developing” this region post-August 5, 2019. “Everything has been put on sale. This is yet another step to sell our assets to non-local businesses,” she claimed.
“Kashmir is one of the oldest golfing destinations. Our golf clubs are not mere real estates, but an essential part of our identity and heritage,” she has said in a statement issued after the letter of JKTDC managing director came into limelight.
“Neither in Jammu, nor in Kashmir, sale of golf courses is unacceptable. We have witnessed that such outsourcing generally ends up in ownership. Many properties of JKTDC and the tourism department are being given away,” she said.
BJP’s J&K spokesperson Altaf Thakur said while the decision to outsource Royal Springs Golf Course has been made, other assets won’t be outsourced for the time being. “This is being done to improve the quality of service and generate revenue. The Royal Springs Golf Course is among the country’s finest, but unfortunately has failed to attract top national and international golfers. After this outsourcing, the golf course will host mega tournaments.”
President the Apni Party, Altaf Bukhari, said, “The plan is still in its initial stage. We have to look who is going to own the land and ownership of these assets, besides environmental issues.”