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Will new Tourism Minister act against mafia?

Saahil Suhail

Anantnag, Jan 4: Influential hoteliers continue to run their hotels and business houses illegally at South Kashmir’s famed tourist resort Pahalgam as their lease agreement with the government has expired 20 years ago.

These hoteliers, who enjoy proximity with politicians and bureaucrats, are running their businesses at the cost of state exchequer as they aren’t paying rent to the Pahalgam Development Authority from last over twenty (20) years.

According to official details, in 1975 Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad led government leased out 1000 Kanals of land to some private parties for 40 years for undertaking construction of hotels and guest-houses to create accommodation facilities for visiting tourists.

Though the lease of these hotels expired in the year 1997 but 20 years down the line respective governments have failed to renew it as hoteliers allegedly enjoy proximity with all most all political parties and bureaucrats.

It is widely believed that these hoteliers and shoppers fund political parties during election time and even provide accommodation facilities to the politicians and bureaucrats round the year.

The hoteliers in violation of the norms have even encroached more land than they were allotted and have raised constructions on Lidder river bank without seeking permission from BOCA committee of Pahalgam Development Authority.

The influence of these hoteliers can be established from the fact the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti in 8th PDA annual meeting directed Deputy Commissioner Anantnag to constitute a committee for renewing the lease agreements of these hoteliers as well as for fixing the rent rates but after the passage of several months hoteliers have managed to sabotage the whole exercise as the authorities haven’t yet constituted a committee as desired by the Chief Minister.

In 8th PDA meeting, held last year, Chief Executive Officer Pahalgam Development Authority informed government that 53 Kanals and 2 Marlas of state land has been occupied by 74 parties who have established commercial structures in the shape of hotels, restaurants and shops.
“Since long they have neither renewed their lease deed, nor they are paying ground rent on this account, “Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti who chaired the meeting was informed and requested to issue directions for the timely settlement of the issue.

PDA pleaded that the present rate structure is not in consonance with the prevailing market value of the land, which need to be reviewed so that fresh lease deeds are executed between the parties as per the revised rates.

Now it will be interesting to see whether the incumbent Tourism Minister Tassaduq Hussain Mufti makes Pahalgam Development Authority accountable and gets the lease agreements renewed or succumbs before the influential mafia established by hoteliers at Pahalgam.