Early Times Report
Jammu, Nov 13: The tall claims of Jammu and Kashmir administration of promoting tourism and taking it to new heights fell flat as the tourists visiting the country's largest underground aquarium here, were not happy with the J&K Fisheries Department, which charged extra money for carrying cell phones and cameras inside the complex.
Bagh-e-Bahu Aquarium, that surrounds the Bahu Fort at over 220 metres in length, has been titled as the largest underground aquarium in the country and not only tourists, but the locals as well have many times expressed resentment over the decision of the government, charging additional Rs 75 and Rs 25 to carry cell phones and cameras inside the aquarium complex. As per the sources, Rs 30 is charged for adult entry and Rs 10 for child, for entry into the aquarium premises, but few metres short of entry point of the aquarium, is located another counter established by the J&K Fisheries Department, which charges extra money from the visitors, in case they are interested in carrying mobile phones or cameras to click pictures inside.
''It is unfortunate the tourists are burdened with double amount charged from them to enter the aquarium,'' a visitor said.
He expressed that he has been to many places like Lotus Temple, Sidhi Vinayak Temple, Tirupati Temple, Darbar Sahib, but never found such kind of culture.
''Charging twice at the same venue is wrong and nowhere have we seen anybody charging for mobile phones inside such complexes,'' he added.
At one of the finest aquariums 'Tarapora Aquarium' in Mumbai, people visit along with mobile phones and nobody charge for the gadgets, he said and rued the decision of the concerned authorities. A local expressed, ''How will we improve tourism culture and give it a boost when such things do keep happening. First of all entries should be free of cost but in case, if it is not possible, a nominal free should be charged per head and the children below the age of 10 years should be given free entry to such venues."
''To stay away from paying extra to carry cell phones, many people either avoid visiting the aquarium or skip,'' he said and added that those who visit the, may venue carry only one cell phone to avoid paying extra money.
Government should consider on this matter, said a local adding that the 'mantra' of boosting tourism can be learnt from the neighbouring states as they have special policies and strategies for giving push to their tourism sector. "Jammu and Kashmir (now Union Territory) is already a conflict zone and tourism industry has gone down in the last few years especially in the Kashmir valley but if government continue with such decisions, tourism may get badly affected," they said and added that the tourists, who are 'messengers', and have to carry forward the first impression they face, should be provided hassle free facilities. The fish shaped aquarium has 24 aquarium caves that further incorporate 13 small caves containing fresh-water fish, apart from those with marine-water fish. The aquarium is home to 400 different species of fish. Apart from looking at the fish, tourists can also explore the museum, the multimedia centre, the public gallery, and the laboratory, promoting aquatic awareness.