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J&K: Gulmarg resort project sparks debate

By Mukhtar Ahmad In Srinagar
November 21, 2006 20:18 IST
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The state government decision to lease out land in the tourist resort of Gulmarg in order to build World class infra-structural facilities there has generated a feverish debate within the Valley with many trade groups and separatist leaders opposing what they call 'the sale of Kashmir'.

"It is part of the Indian plan to continue the subjugation of Kashmir and I shall always oppose any such move tooth and nail," said the hardliner separatist leader and chairman of the breakaway All parties Hurriyat Conference group, Syed Ali Shah Geelani in Srinagar.

The official version is that the land would be leased out to only locals who can then start joint ventures with outside investors for building infra-structural facilities.

"There are already joint ventures in the Valley like a hotel in summer capital Srinagar.

"The bidding process for the 550 kanals of land intended to be leased out is restricted to state subjects and a non-state subject cannot even buy a bid document. The locals after successfully bidding for the land can enter into joint ventures with outside investors, but such joint ventures shall have to be authenticated by the state government in order to ensure that at least 50% employment generated thereof goes to locals.

"No outsider can in any case create a stake in the land bid for by the locals. The structures to be built on the leased land cannot be more than 24 feet high. These structures have to be restricted to 15% of the built-up area and must gel with the ecological character of Gulmarg," said Nayeem Akhter, commissioner and secretary tourism department of Srinagar who is also the designate authority for the ambitious lease deal for Gulmarg.

According to the special status of the state under article 370 of the Indian constitution, no non-state subject can buy land or immovable property in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. These rules, which have been first enacted by the then Dogra Maharaja of Kashmir, were preserved as Permanent resident rules under article 370.

In order to attract attention to the their opposition to the Gulmarg sale deal, Syed Ali Shah Geelani has called for a general shutdown strike on Saturday.

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Mukhtar Ahmad In Srinagar