US Students To Sell 'safe Kashmir'
2 August 2005
The Times of India
New Delhi: Tourism in Jammu and Kashmir will soon have unique brand ambassadors - students from some of America's best known universities like Harvard, Yale, MIT, Princeton and Stanford. The Union tourism ministry is launching a gurukul package for foreign students - especially from the US - who can come to Kashmir during their annual summer break and learn how to make carpets, shawls and rugs in villages. On finishing their crash course, the students will be given a certificate. Tourism minister Renuka Choudhury feels that on returning home, the students will help spread the word that Kashmir is a safe tourist destination. Five villages - two in Jammu (Sruinsar and Jhiri) and three in the Kashmir Valley (Pahalgam Drung and Gagangir) - have been shortlisted for the gurukul package. Master craftsmen are being shortlisted for training the students. Five villages - Pochampalli in Andhra... ... Pradesh, Chettinad in Tamil Nadu, Raghurajpur in Orissa, Nagar in Himachal Pradesh and Aranmullah in Kerala - will also be part of the scheme. Choudhury said: 'A website is being created to announce the scheme which will be linked to websites of American universities. Students can come to India, live in our villagers exactly the way local people do and learn art forms from master craftsmen. There can be no better way to inform the world that Kashmir is safe than through the international student fraternity.' J&K tourism secretary Anil Goswami said, 'We expect the first batch of students in July 2006.' According to joint secretary, tourism, Amitabh Kant, the package is part of India's indigenous tourism scheme under which 31 villages have been identified. 'Rs 50 lakh is being given to each of these villages for infrastructure development.'