The kind of publicity, discussions, debates, and celebrations that the country is seeing on the completion of a year of the government are unprecedented in democratic India. Yes, there’s no denying that there is bound to be short- and long-term appraisals of governments when promises and expectations are high. One year of the Modi government has been trendsetting in many ways. The Prime Minister himself has been on the forefront of setting many trends, be it his couture, public discourse, communication, governance, or diplomatic engagements. No Prime Minister has, in the past, spoken so vividly about tourism. He has in some sense become the goodwill ambassador of Indian tourism at his foreign jaunts, inducing interest and inspiring people to visit India.
As a regular practice, different departments of the government have printed, published, and circulated voluminous reports of achievements in the first year of the government. The report of the Tourism Ministry, as expected, has highlights such as the e-Tourist Visa, which is a major achievement. It goes without saying that the credit must go to the government for taking an unambiguous policy decision on this. Nonetheless, the Prime Minister has elegantly used it as a diplomatic tool in the last few months, rolling it out one by one in countries he has visited, scoring diplomatic brownie points, and at the same time marketing ‘Incredible India’.
What tops the achievements list is the recent World Economic Forum (Davos) Report on Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index, where India moved 13 positions to the 52nd rank in 2015. The motive to take credit for each and everything might be unintentional, but definitely out of place. First, the Index is published every two years. Besides, while India scaled 13 ranks overall, its performance on many subsets is far from desirable, as per the report. These details, however, are inadvertently sidelined. India’s ranking on tourism-specific infrastructure is 109, on health and hygiene 106, on ICT readiness 114, on safety and security 97, and on environmental sustainability 139, among 140 countries on the Index. When the situation on the ground level is so appalling, we have to deal with selective amnesia of the powers, who end up missing the wood for the trees.
The achievements of the Tourism Ministry also include creditable performance of the public sector corporation under the Ministry - ITDC, in the last year. The profit before taxes have risen 152.6 per cent (from Rs 11.93 crore to Rs 30.14 crore between 2013-14 and 2014-15). Occupancies in the corporation-run hotels also went up from 47 per cent to 55 per cent between the two accounting years. These show that the steps taken by the new government to turn around the public sector corporation has started showing results within a year. In that case, why the hurry to disinvest the public sector corporation? Even now there are skeletons in the closet of the last disinvestment of the corporation, which continue to give sleepless nights to many!
P Krishna Kumar
Bureau Chief, New Delhi