The Jammu and Kashmir government remains non-committal to allot Bajpathri as an alternative firing range to the Army which vacated the Tossa Maidan firing range in 2014. The government is treading cautiously as a spate of public protests erupted in the twin districts of Budgam and Pulwama after the media reported that the PDP-BJP led regime was considering giving the Bajpathri meadow near the health resort of Yousmarg to the Army as a firing range. Sources in the state government told this correspondent that the decision has been put on hold as a wider agitation is feared.
According to a government notification issued by the state Home Department, the Army has been granted permission to carry out artillery practice in Garhi area of Rajouri in the Jammu region. The lease of many places to be used as firing ranges by the army has expired.
The Army has been demanding a fresh firing range after they vacated Tossa Maidan in Budgam district. The state government refused to renew the lease as it wants to make that place a tourist destination. The Army had suggested Bajpathri meadow as an alternative firing range. Bajpathri is not only known for its lush-green forests, it is a source of water supply to dozens of villages in Budgam and Pulwama districts. If this place is given away to the Army as a firing range, the nearby tourist destination of Yousmarg will be impacted adversely, the locals complain.
Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed had said in September at the Civil-Military Liaison Conference (CMLC) that the Army’s request for a new firing range will be considered. Earlier, former CM Omar Abdullah had refused to extend the lease of Tossa Maidan firing range in April 2014.
The Army has 12 firing ranges in J&K out of which the lease of 10 firing ranges expired in 2014. According to state government officials, Mufti government was strongly considering to give a huge firing range to the Army in the Leh area of Ladakh region but the Army is not keen for the same.