Tourism Minister to visit Kashmir, Ladakh

Delhi, Aug 27 (IANS) Days after IANS reported that the BJP's election in-charge for Jammu and Kashmir Avinash Rai Khanna wrote to Union Tourism Minister Prahlad Patel to fast track tourism in the valley, the effect has started to show.

A team of the tourism ministry is being sent to the valley while the minister himself will visit post-Diwali.

But interestingly, Patel wants to start with Ladakh region. This comes just after newly-elected Ladakh Member of Parliament Jamyang Tsering Namgyal visited the national capital and met senior BJP leader Ram Madhav to request the government to give adequate focus on the newly-created union territory of Ladakh.

Even in his Lok Sabha speech, that was widely praised, Namgyal highlighted how majority of the funds were reserved for Kashmir and Ladakh was a victim to indifference.

Namgyal met Madhav with a host of PDP leaders from Ladakh who joined BJP on Monday to press for his demands.

And results have already started to show. As many as 15 mountain peaks from the twin union territories that were so far out of bounds for foreign tourists will now be open to visit. This decision has recently been taken after the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution and creation of Ladakh as a union territory.

The tourism ministry team will also be exploring opportunities for mountain sports, training of guides, training of porters for trekking purposes and finding alternatives to hotels that will benefit the local population.

While BJP leader Khanna's suggestion to explore reviving the herbal medicine industry hasn't got immediate attention from Patel's ministry, but his other suggestion of religious tourism has excited the officials.

Now, the ministry hopes to project the entire Ladakh region as a tourist hub to experience Buddhism and its teachings.

However, Patel's visit in Ladakh will be limited to Leh and not Kargil, say sources.

A spate of developmental schemes are being introduced and opportunities are being explored by different ministries in the aftermath of Article 370 being axed. The Modi government believes these will generate jobs and better connect people of the twin UTs with mainland India.

On August 5, India revoked the contentious Article 370 and 35A which gave special status to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.

--IANS

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