Union Tourism Minister Subodh Kant continues to be as dashing as Sever: bold, self-assured, decision-taker to the core. In the Tourism Ministry, he is bent upon making India tourism-friendly, tourist-friendly, tourism-destination matching global tourism destinations. In an exclusive interview with LOK PANCHAYAT, the pragmatic Subodh Kant talks about his plans and the present impediments face-to-face with tourism sector in the country.
What are you doing for the country’s tourism sector, what all do you plan to do for it and what’re your aims?
Fundamentally, tourism has not yet become India’s political and economic agenda. In the states, it is almost nil, null and void. States should do correct evaluation of the tourism sector and tourism industry. They (states) have been unsuccessful in it so far. Tourism sector is the biggest (direct and indirect) employment-giving sector. In this sector if someone invests say Rs 10 lakhs, it gives direct and indirect employment to nearly 80 people. Our basic structure of tourism and the industry related to it is indeed very weak, topsy-turvy, rickety. In our domestic tourism sector, religion tourism is more (than anything else). Lakhs and lakhs of people in this country go to Vaishno Devi, Shirdi, Tirupathi etc. At present, every day, numerous people go to so many repertoire of religious places all through the country. …Half per cent of global tourists come to India. Our efforts are : in the coming five years, we want to raise that figure to 1 per cent. To achieve this, we want to develop the entire tourism sector and its basic structures in the mould of Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Rural Mission. Because of this, there will be all round development in the tourism sector in the country. Tourism sector in the country then will look complete. It will be then clear that yes, India gives relevant, required priority to the tourism sector and welcomes people as tourists in the country. Subsequently, they get all the basic and required facilities as tourists matching global standards. …We are making the states sensitive towards this goal so that they develop their respective states in that line in the PPP (Public Private Partnership) mould. We are taking this mission upto the levels of Planning Commission, states, industry, stake holders for a consensus. This way the all round development of the tourism in the country will be complete, rapid, to the desired-point. Subsequently, number of tourists in the country will increase. Therefore, Tourism Ministry in Parivahan Bhavan is conversion ministry. It coordinates , liaises with 10-15 ministries. I want that a coordination committee set up in the level of PMO for smooth coordination and the subsequent, fruitful results.
In which states, tourism is seen as commercial venture?
There are many states which are developed in the tourism sector. Like Kerala, Rajasthan, Goa. Among the new states are Uttarakhand , etc. After Arunachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, states which are fast progressing (in the tourism sector) are Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.
How are the north-east states behaving in the toursim sector?
(Broadly speaking) North-east states according less attention towards tourism in their respective states. This despite they have largest resources. If these states concentrate on tourism sector in whole hearted manner then they will automatically get a lot of earning sources and their emptying their states will automatically end.
How far Sikkim has constructively progressed in the tourism sector?
In the North-east, Sikkim is developing itself very beautifully, constructively in thr tousim sector. Meghalaya, Aruncahal Pradesh are steadily developing tourism. As for other states in the North-East, their performance in the tourism sector is not satisfactory. For these states, we are trying to implement new schemes and inculcate special efforts.
Your comments on Panchayati Raj because of your known interest/s in it?
We want to give money to the Panchayats straightaway from the Centre cutting away all middle and via paths. This way, the Panchayats will do their required development/s on their own and will not depend on any one. State Governments are still not ready to give full, due, required rights to the Panchayats as a result, the Panchayats’ developments are not full and according to the desired extent. Panchayati Raj is under state governments. That is why these state governments should make contructive, concerted. serious, honest efforts in this direction so that the Panchayats in their respective states are self-reliant, self-sufficient, self-dependent.
Do all states do not want to give (due) rights to the Panchayats?
More or less, all states are same (in this aspect). Bharat Nirman will be incomplete as long as all (Bharat Nirman work related) decisions relating to it are taken by the related Panchayats all throughout, in every nook and corner of the country. …When will the people understand this is keenly awaited. The day they understand it clearly, Panchayati Raj will come into the action in full-fledged manner. Subsequently, the Panchayats will develop all round. Resultwise, the villages, talukas, mandals districts, divisions, cities, states and UTs will be all-round developed. To achieve this, presently, sangharsh (struggle) is on…