By Amir Iqbal Khan
Bhadarwah:People of Bhaderwah are up in arms against the recent decision of the UT administration having deliberately excluded Bhadarwah from the list of film shooting sites in Jammu Province.
Calling the decision in this regard as pre-conceived move of the motivated authorities for pushing Bhadarwah- popularly denominated with names like Switzerland of Jammu and Kashmir, to the wall denying it the much awaited place of preference in terms of tourism promotion and generation of employment, people over here allege that the increasing popularity of Bhadarwah becoming the choicest destination of world tourists and the film makers for shooting their movies and serials is not tolerated by certain regionalist authorities who while playing tactically have deliberately set aside and given a setback to this bewitching place of tourism significance.
“We feel betrayed by the UT administration and the recent decision of exclusion of Bhadarwah from the enlisted/declared tourist sites notified for ‘film shooting’.It is quite clear that some politically motivated authorities fulfilling the regionalistic aspirations of some vested interests have back stabbed the people of Chenab Valley region in general and Bhadarwah Additional district in particular by negating this part of land that is world famous for the mundane beauty and comprise awe attracting tourist spots in the entire Jammu Province,” alleged Mast Nath Yogi- a veteran Social activist of Bhadarwah. While expressing utter surprise over the apathetic attitude of the UT administration, he observed that Bhadarwah of late, has emerged as the ultimate tourist destination in the entire Jammu region and renowned Bollywood film makers are finding it the choicest and the cheapest place for shooting their films amidst the lush green dales of Bhadarwah valley for which the testimony is borne by the fact that only a month ago, a worldwide Multi-episode Web series was shot here in which hundreds of unemployed youth found daily wages upon their engagement as a help to the crew members, he further maintained.
Undeniably, Bhadarwah lacks the basic avenues of employment and the lone source of living of the people is to rely on a meagre Agricultural practices, but this source too is restricted to only some of the people who own agricultural land, the rest of others who San cultivable land avail their lives under hard pressed circumstances having no other means of procuring livelihood. In this back drop, at present only the way out to meet the life sustenance goal, there is the much talked about tourism sector that is believed to solve the problem of unemployment to some extent and the local youth are aspiring for finding job opportunities in it. They had been eyeing on the strengthening of tourism infrastructure in Bhadarwah and were hopeful from the provincial administration of diverting the tourist rush to this place on priortistic merits as also by the concerned tourism authorities, but the latest decision of the government to nominate other places and ignoring this area amounts to placing it at a great disadvantage which is construed to be adding to the miserable plight of the public of this area thereby flushing out their hopes that they had pinned with tourist industry.
“Bhadarwah has been an eye sore for and fell victim of some vested interests who are always playing spoilsport and regionalist card as and when it came on to bolster its legally admissible upliftment of the economy, but it was advertently divested of its legal share of the means of development, progress and advancement which is clear from the orders and directives of state and central governments for shifting of various offices from here, which were functioning from pre-independence days”, exclaimed Mohammad Iqbal Ganai( a prominent Citizen)
It is worthwhile that Golden Jubilee Award winning Bollywood Film ” Noorie” under the Banner “Yashraj Productions” was shot in the charming valley of Bhadarwah during the years 1976-77 after which the undiscovered tourist spots of this place came to the limelight and other movie production companies from Bollywood too showed their willingness and interest to choose this place for shooting purposes, but the then state government allegedly put up a blanket ban on the intending movie makers to shoot in Bhadarwah. Even as the ban was in force, still some Television Serials and other mass media houses left with no other option visited this place finding it difficult to shoot in Kashmir Valley owing to extreme militancy that was on its peak during nineeties which is believed to have boosted the local economy to some extent. But as alleged by the people, government has never shown any interest on its own in promoting the tourism related business over here because of the politically articulated discrimination, as a result, this place of bewildering natural beauty remained away from the glimpse of the outside world and thus, it was made concomitantly a canstant victim of utter neglect. Experts are of the opinion that political vacuum and lack of local well to matter leadership is largely responsible for the economic stultification and unimaginably progressive helplessness that has further added to the sense of deprivation amongst the population.
“People feel deceived at the hands of leaders who were imported and consequently, after Chunni Lal Kotwal who was a local representative and native of this place(the then Cabinet Minister in the Cabinet of Late Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad for whom residents owe umpteen development of the area) did show only their faces during election times to get votes and preferentially worked tirelessly for other areas of erstwhile district Doda instead,” lamented Zaffar Hussain Wani- a Social Activist.
However, during the Chief Ministership of Ghulam Nabi Azad who was MLA Bhadarwah during 2005-08, the Tourism related infrastructure was put in place and adequate advertisements/ campaigns for highlighting of immense tourism potential of Bhadarwah were carried in other parts of the country undoubtedly which kept attracting tourists of diverse interests. ‘All India Tour Operators’ were also invited to make Bhadarwah a place of Perennial tourism activity and along with other Tourism Development Authorities, “Bhadarwah Development Authority”(BDA) was established to oversee and tap the tourism avenues in the entire erstwhile District Doda, but the required infrastructure was not strengthened the way it ought to be even during his tenure as a Chief Minister for obvious reasons of regional compulsions.
Surprisingly afterwards, no attention was given to this sector, resultantly, the pre-existing infrastructure is said to be in shambles today and reportedly the funding under tourism promotion schemes has been cut short except for slight and minor maintenance , as per reliable sources, the amount of that segment too has been curtailed considerably beside abandoning the process of landscaping which is thought to be an inalienable prerequisite of garnishing the spots of tourism interests.
Interestingly, business associated with the tourism industry over here has experienced an irrecoverable set back. Initially, government had sponsored Hotel and Guest House (including Paying Guest House system)culture to facilitate to the convenience of the incoming tourists and other travellers, but again due to Department’s apathetic considerations having put allegedly on hold the tourist influx to this side, the Guest House owners who already have got indebted to the Tourism Department beside other financial institutions having taken huge loan amounts to set up their guest houses as well as ‘Tour and Travel Agencies’ are crying for help but the government seems least concerned about their woes and the financial crisis they are passing through as of now.
“With a hope I had established a “Paying Guest House” to earn my livelihood in Bhadarwah city having no other source of income whatsoever, and the government through State Tourism Department had provided me a loan for the purpose, but as an ill luck would have it, the tourist rush that remained in the begining has come down remarkably possibly due to the mismanagement and irresponsible attitude of the concerned department,” alleged Mohammad Salim Butt-a local guest house owner.
In wake of the present decision of the UT administration allegedly having delibratedly negated Bhadarwah from the list of the selected and notified tourist places for shooting films is yet another step that is being apprehended to become responsible for backbreaking of the people of Bhadarwah particularly those stakeholders who are associated with the business related to tourism.
The residents are still hopeful that the UT government under the aegis of Lt Governor Manoj Sinha shall reconsider the decision and respect for the rights of the people of Bhadarwah as they are demanding constitutionally their legal share purely on account of the merits of the unparalled charm of this place.