The Kargil sector of Ladakh in Jammu & Kashmir is on the international map as the battlefield of the 1999 Indo-Pak war. However, efforts are now underway to develop Kargil as an international tourist destination for its scenic beauty and in this endeavour, Pune is playing an important role.
Children from Kargil, who are currently under the care of Pune-based non-governmental organisation (NGO) Sarhad, are being trained in hospitality management. The idea is to ensure that they provide good service to tourists on their return to Kargil.
For the last more than one year, Sarhad corresponded with the Central government, Indian army and Jammu & Kashmir government for developing Kargil as an international tourist destination. All the authorities concerned have given a positive response and development work has already begun in Kargil.
Sanjay Nahar, founder of Sarhad, told dna, “I have been writing letters to various ministries regarding developing Kargil as an international tourist destination. Recently, I received a copy of a letter from the prime minister’s office directing the ministry of tourism to take positive steps in developing Kargil as a tourist spot. I have also received a copy of a letter from the Union home minister directing the chief minister of Jammu & Kashmir to take necessary steps to develop Kargil as a tourist centre.”
Nahar said that while Kargil has heavenly scenic beauty, it could not be developed as a tourist hub. “It is known as a destination to take a halt while going to Leh but now we are planning to develop Kargil as a tourist destination where visitors will be spending more than one day. While doing this, we are not taking any government funding and we are taking the help of local people in developing a tourist hub at Kargil,” Nahar said.
Apart from taking help from local people to develop Kargil as a tourist hub, Sarhad is also training students from Kargil in hospitality management. There are around 30 children from Kargil under the care of Sarhad in Pune, and some of them have been trained in hospitality management.
Mohummad Ilyas from Minjee village of Kargil is studying hotel management at a city-based institute. Mohummad told dna, “I am taking lessons in hotel management so that once I finish my education and go back to Kargil, I will have a job in hand and I will be happy to provide good service to tourists coming to my native place.”
Ali Skindar and Mohummad Ali are also taking lessons in hospitality management and they will be working as tour operators once Kargil develops as a tourist destination.
These students are also learning Marathi to ensure better service to tourists from Maharashtra. “Nearly three lakh tourists from Maharashtra visit Jammu & Kashmir every year and this is one of the largest groups of tourists in the country. Therefore we are teaching them Marathi so that they can develop good communication with tourists from Maharashtra,” Nahar added.