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Jammu Turns Cosmopolitan
M. Ashraf, Former Director General of Tourism, Jammu & Kashmir

A drive through “Greater Jammu” especially through some of the posh colonies confirms that the City is fast turning into a vibrant metropolis. Soon it will be vying with Delhi and Chandigarh as a City to live in comfortably. The City has an interesting history of its phenomenal growth. Jammu used to be a small town on a hill on the banks of River Tawi. A transit point on way to the valley of Kashmir. In our school books we used to read about the founding of the city by Raja Jamboo Lochan after he had seen a lion and goat drink water together on the banks of River Tawi. With the establishment of Dogra Kingdom and purchase of Kashmir from the British by the Maharaja Gulab Singh, it became the winter capital of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu & Kashmir. The Maharaja used to spend winter in Jammu and summer in the cool of Kashmir. After 1947 the practice of Maharaja was continued by the popular government for maintaining the integrity of the state. Even though the government had to duplicate everything and transfer all the records, yet it was thought to be a good practice to ensure integration between two provinces. No doubt the transfer of the government for six months put the other province at a loss, yet it did have a positive impact.

There was definite cultural, social, and economic interaction between the peoples from the two provinces. In earlier times the people of Kashmir must have been looking forward to the arrival of Maharaja with his government on the advent of summer. In modern times, the people of Jammu had been looking forward to the arrival of Government in Jammu on the advent of winter. The Jammuites had always a genuine grouse that the state government used to be always headed by a person from the valley. This grouse is over now for the moment! Also they perennially complained that the valley based government gave a step-motherly treatment to them and Jammu did not receive the attention it normally deserved. Prior to eruption of militancy, there may have been some truth in this allegation. Kashmir was always in the focus of the Central Government and others due to the underlying problem as well as the international attention it commanded. The continuously changing political situation in Kashmir did make Jammu go by default. However, the situation took a dramatic turn after 1990 when the entire valley was thrown into an unprecedented turmoil.

There was a natural compulsion to look for a more peaceful alternative for both carrying on the government work as well as for continuing commercial activities in the private sector. Jammu provided the most suitable alternative for both. Most of the Central Government Offices shifted their headquarters to Jammu. With the increasing globalisation, a number of multi-national companies set up their state offices in Jammu to cater for the whole state. Many organisations established their Regional Offices here. This increased commercial activity and an influx of business people expanded Jammu. The city municipal limits have now grown from 32 square kilometres to 132 square kilometres. More than a dozen posh housing colonies have developed in and around Jammu. The greatest improvement has been in the development of roads, flyovers and bridges which has greatly enhanced mobility. In earlier times it used to take almost an hour to travel from Gandhi Nagar to Secretariat because of traffic congestion on the lone bridge on River Tawi and other traffic jams. Now the journey can be accomplished in less than 10 minutes.

The Jammu Development Authority has prepared a Master Plan 2021 which proposes to make Jammu one of the best developed cities. The projected development area is expected to go up to almost 30 thousand hectares with a population of about 2 million in 2021. Even now Jammu population is over one million almost same as that of Srinagar. At one time it was less than a third of that city. The Master Plan envisages setting up of plotted colonies to accommodate 8 to 9 lakh people. Independent plotted development has been preferred to multi-storey type of apartment development which is in keeping with cosmopolitan outlook. It has been proposed to have open and green spaces and the area earmarked exceeds 3,000 hectares. Already some of the colonies like Sidhra have wide green spaces all around. In fact an eighteen hole Golf course is right now under construction near Sidhra. Gandhi Nagar already has a long green belt. A number of by passes and through ways with new bridges are proposed to further improve traffic. The valley bound traffic will have an uninterrupted flow once the road is made into a four lane highway. It will lessen burden on Jammu city.

A massive expansion has been envisaged for development of medium and small scale industries. Expansion of existing industrial estates has been planned. In order to meet the demands of the increased population the civic utilities such as drainage, sewerage, and water supply are also proposed to be expanded to the required level. Drainage is being revamped in the old city and for new areas sewerage treatment plants are proposed at suitable locations. It is very impressive to watch this revamp which is being executed on a day and night basis. The speed of the work is good and unlike Srinagar where one is used to see dug out open drains along Boulevard, Airport Road, and in down town for years together. Jammu has now a very impressive Academy for Art and Culture. The erstwhile Railway Station across River Tawi has been converted into an impressive Art Gallery. It is a pleasure to visit the exhibitions and functions being held there on a regular basis. University of Jammu has recently opened one of the best Auditoriums in entire North India. According to some it is next only to Vighyan Bhavan. Jammu has a new Shopping Mall and some more are expected. There are many branded shopping outlets in a number of places. Some of the show rooms are as good as in Delhi and Mumbai. The automobile show rooms on the by pass road are built on a grand scale with all fully automated servicing facilities. In brief, Jammu is growing at an accelerated pace and in a positive way.

The local Politicians, Bureaucrats, Private Entrepreneurs, and the people in general are fully involved in this development. On the contrary Srinagar is getting murkier every day. Stinking garbage scattered all over the city. Roads with pot holes. Dug up and choked drains. Low lying colonies easily flooded by rain. The Politicians, the Bureaucrats, the Entrepreneurs, and the Engineers are all overtaking each other to make a fast buck regardless of what happens to the public at large. Everybody has a one point programme. To make more and more money by every possible means. Being part of a Durbar Move family right from my early childhood, I have had the opportunity of watching Jammu grow from my school days. It gives one great pleasure to see a city grow and turn into an important metropolis. Why can’t Srinagar grow like this? Will we ever get attached to the city of our birth as strongly and feel for it as emotionally as the Jammu people do for theirs? One can only wish and hope because we are traditional “Lotus Eaters”!

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