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Monday, 01 April, 2019, 16 : 19 PM [IST]

Checks & Balances

Travel & Tourism is often termed as a ‘fun’ industry so much so that even ministers, bureaucrats, political set-up all perceive it in that fashion. This is despite the bureaucratic roles in the Tourism Ministry not carrying the same weight and appeal what other powerful departments of the government do. In an informal chat, a senior retired but still retained bureaucrat submitted that he always had a liking for tourism postings as it offers extensive travel and socialising opportunities. Even the current Tourism Minister himself was heard boasting on more than one occasions that he feels lost as to the city he is starting his day because of the official travel involved.

Also, travel and tourism is one segment of the economy which can be linked to any activity, irrespective whether it has any direct connotation to tourism or not. That is the reason why, even when the ‘T’ in tourism was not uttered directly or indirectly in government documents like annual budgets, we still scurry to connect the dots and take solace in the indirect benefits that the sector would accrue due to numerous other policy proposals for unrelated sectors like rural development, agriculture, infrastructure, etc. And, it is the same gut feeling that gives our leaders to base their claims of 14 million additional jobs theory being created in the sector!

However, questions have started being raised against the way tourism is being conducted in the country of late. A private bill was introduced towards the concluding hours of the last session of the present Parliament, which somehow went unnoticed. The bill, Tourism Promotion Corporation of India Bill, 2015, from its very essence questions the status-quo-ism that prevails in Tourism Department and the way funds are dispersed without due diligence and care on ground level implementation. While the bill proposes the constitution of a Tourism Promotion Corporation with a person with keen interest on matters of tourism and culture at the helm as Director General, it also recommends a ‘demand driven’ corpus of INR 5,000 crore for the corporation on the lines of the highly popular MGNREGA scheme. According to the bill, the Corporation with HQ in Delhi and offices in all states would formulate policies relevant for the sector and recommend to the government the incentives, tax holidays, etc. required to build infrastructure at destinations to promote tourism.

It is not sure what future awaits the private Bill which got introduced towards the fag end of the tenure of the government. However, it will definitely trigger a debate at least. If the controversies surrounding the use or mis-use of Centrally-funded schemes for political gains from Kerala and other destinations are anything to be believed, it is definitely ‘Bandar Bhat’ that is happening in the name of tourism funding. That definitely is not going to add any value in the longer term. Therefore, it is time we thought over an alternate system!

P Krishna Kumar
Bureau Chief
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