Ever since he took over the mantle of the state once again, from day one, he was chalking out plans for roadshows to meet with the tourism industry, and also the cinema tourism pioneers. And he led these from the front, sat for hours with his invitees to understand how to take the story of Kashmir forward. His sincerity was visible to everyone, and he remained respected by one and all.
In his passing away, from the standpoint of tourism alone, the sudden demise of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed is indeed the gravest of losses. For stakeholders in the tourism sector, he was always an understanding and appreciative friend, a man on a mission who while serving his third term was committed to regaining the leading position for the paradise on earth on the larger national scene. Those who have been part of his close circle in recent times will tell you that Mufti Saab was prone to getting upset whenever television channels gave undue coverage to isolated incidents that created a wrong impression on viewers about peace on the ground in the valley.
“They blow up even minor incidents in the state not realising it could lead to hundreds of cancellations by visitors.” He was heard saying this angrily on many occasions. The tone of his expression notwithstanding, the statement subtly reflects the kind of fixation he had with the idea of giving a serious rejig to the tourism sector in the state.
His sincerity to promote tourism in his state did not merely rest at retaining the tourism portfolio in his cabinet, assuming the position of chief minister. Despite suffering from serious floods, only a few months after he took over the reins this time (it had taken quite an effort to put life in the valley on track again), he had spearheaded some serious initiatives to revive tourism projects. Among them was the setting up of a high-power tourism board, comprising members from both government as well as the private sector for open discussion and quick decision making on tourism related issues. His efforts to promote cinema tourism in the state by camping in Mumbai last year and directly approaching the stalwarts of the Hindi film industry was arguably a most exemplary effort. And he had not merely indulged in the formal pow-wow with the film fraternity for the sake of drawing attention. He had immediately followed it with single window clearance facilitation for all kinds of cinema filming in the state. And there have been unreported instances wherein he had personally intervened when any crew facing issues on the ground had knocked at his doors. Mufti Saab was simply clear in his mind that cinema could be a great tool to endear the state tourism assets again with the people outside and he was left no stone unturned to make it happen.
From another tourism standpoint, he had also nurtured another unique idea; to give India its Davos kind of annual business show with Gulmarg as a regular venue to host both Indian and international corporate honchos every year. Insiders will tell you that the idea was quite close to Mufti Saab’s heart and he had begun putting the broader contours of the grand show together.
After his demise, the reins will now shift to his daughter Mehbooba Mufti Sayeed who is broadly viewed today as a seasoned politician who as an administrator is pitched to retain the concerns for tourism which her father had shown in no uncertain terms. There could not simply be any better tribute to the man than taking his tourism centric initiatives to their logical conclusion.
Fast tracking infra projects, marketing of the state worldwide as a unique tourism destination, more direct flights from key generating markets and an equal emphasis on the three parts of the state – Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.