Jammu and Kashmir Governor N.N. Vohra has asked the administration to stop the sale of Government Arts Emporium and Hari Niwas Palace following a hue and cry in the local press over these prized government properties.
The decision to outsource Hari Niwas Palace as a wedding destination under MICE tourism was taken by the PDP-BJP government.
The coalition government had also decided to sell the Government Arts Emporium, the erstwhile British Resident’s residence with a beautifully laid out garden.
Reports said that both these prized properties could have gone to two influential business families of J&K, if the sale had not been put on hold.
“As of today the files have been sent for review and most likely the two properties would not be sold or outsourced,” a senior official privy to this matter told this newspaper.
Hari Niwas Palace is currently a VIP guest house spread over 70 kanals of land with three presidential suites, VVIP guest rooms and dozens of deluxe bedrooms. The state government had spent Rs 10-15 crore to convert this building into a guest house after former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah refused to use the palace as his official residence.
Informed sources told this newspaper that a file was ready to outsource Hari Niwas Palace to a local businessman at a very low price, but timely intervention by the Governor averted this.
The PDP-BJP government had agreed that the Government Arts Emporium would be outsourced to a local businessman as it had incurred losses.
Local artisans and trade bodies raised the issue in the local media and said that it would be against their interest. The emporium has about two dozen showrooms at prime locations across the country and its main office in Srinagar is a prized property worth Rs 80-100 crore according to artisans. Kashmir’s apex business chamber, Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries, said in a statement they will oppose any move by the government to outsource the emporium.
The state government has been toying with the idea of outsourcing many government properties, especially those corporations which are running at losses.