Would Gulmarg unshackle from fetters of its greedy sharks?

by IANS |

New Delhi, Dec 17 (IANS) The recently notified Land Grants Rules 2022 in Jammu and Kashmir once implemented are set to open a can of worms exposing the plunder of the world famous Gulmarg tourist resort by the rich, influential and powerful sharks.

The lands allotted and occupied by various businessmen/hoteliers and other influential people are all forest lands recorded as ?Gair Mumkin Jangal' (Non-cultivable forest land owned by the state).

These lands were allotted to the rich and powerful without any public auction or reference.

In many cases, the actual lessees are not in occupation of the lands over which business establishments including hotels/resorts etc have come up those are owned by big business houses.

The worst part of these illegal allotments includes felling of forest and establishment of business empires while the government got just nominal revenue as greedy businessmen made tens of millions each year.

The tourist season in Gulmarg extends from spring, summer, autumn to winter as the mountains overlooking this resort offer some of the best ski slopes in the World.

The room rent at most of these hotels and resorts ranges from Rs 15,000 to Rs 50,000 per night.

Ironically, the list of lands occupied in Gulmarg reads like the who-is-who of the local business community and none of the allottees/occupiers is a middle class businessman of the union territory.

A cursory look at the beneficiaries of forest lands in Gulmarg gives a clear idea as to why the influential people have pitched against the land Grants Rules 2022.

For example, Hotel Mumtaz owned by Mushtaq Ahmad Ganie alias Mushtaq Chaya, is constructed on forest land allotted originally to one Bodh Raj Sahab, but is now occupied by Mushtaq Chaya. The area originally allotted was 4 kanals, while now 7 kanals and 18 marlas are under illegal possession of the hotelier.

The Gulmarg Resort owned by Manzoor Ahmad Burza is spread over 4 kanals and 19 marlas while the original lessee, Bodh Raj Sahab was allotted 4 kanals who has since parted with the possession.

The Heaven Resort owned by another member of the Burza family, Mushtaq Ahmad Burza is spread over 5 kanals and 3 marlas while the original lease stood in the name of Bodh Raj Sahab who was allotted 4 kanals.

The Khyber Resort owned by Pinekel resorts Ltd belonging to Tramboo family is spread over 61 kanals while the original allotment of 51 kanals, 14 marlas was made to Amar Jeet Singh and Parab Jeet Singh who no longer figure anywhere now.

Hotel Nedous is spread over 103 kanals and 6 marlas while actually just 2 kanals and 13 marlas were allotted to Gulam Qadir alias Harry Nedou whose son, Omar Khalil is now the occupier.

Hotel Highland Park is spread over 68 kanals and 9 marlas while 67 kanals and 19 marlas were allotted to Sheikh Shamsuddin alias Benji Nedou, whose son Sheikh Ahmad alias Fredi was running the place.

Broadway Amla Hut spread over 20 kanals and 10 marlas was allotted to Justice Shadi Lal who no longer figures on the ground as the place is occupied by Krishen Kumar Amla.

Hotel Hilltop owner by Aijaz Ahmad Ganie alias Chaya is spread over 6 kanals and 15 marlas while original lessee was Imtiaz Ahmad Mattu who was allotted 2 kanals and 12 marlas.

Saifco Hut spread over 2 kanals and 1 marla owned by Altaf Ahmad Beigh while original the allotment was made to Khwaja Saifuddin to the extent of 2 kanals only.

These details are perhaps only the tip of an iceberg which the illegal occupiers are trying desperately to hide.

Interestingly, the actual room demand as per the tourist inflow should be 10 times more than the present occupancy available.

In order to keep their monopoly and self-dictated room prices intact, the illegal occupiers would not like the real players to jump into the arena because the end of their monopoly would mean comparatively affordable rooms for all sections of tourists.

"The demand of beneficiaries that only 20 per cent additional premium be charged may not be acceptable. The Central government has formulated several policies for monetisation of assets and extension of leases which are time tested and have withstood scrutiny of various courts," top official sources told IANS.

"Transparent revenue generation is a necessary step for real empowerment of the common man in J&K," the sources added.

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