“Delhi has a lot to offer and the heritage city is not just about Red Fort and Qutab Minar”
Delhi has much more to offer to the visitors, apart from the Red Fort or the Qutab Minar with the tourism body focusing on creating new tourist circuits in the capital city with some not-so-popular locations. Shurbir Singh, managing director, Delhi Tourism and Transport Development Corporation (DTTDC) shares the organisations’s plans. Singh is also CEO- The Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB), a department primarily responsible for improving the quality of the life of Slum and JJ Dwellers in the capital city of Delhi whose population at present is estimated to be 1.40 crores. Edited excerpts:
Is it true that the department is planning to set up a new tourist circuit based on the theme of Sepoy Mutiny 1857 and identifying relevant sites in Delhi?
The government is doing everything to promote tourism. We have had conventional tourist routes with us for the longest time, such as the Lotus Temple, Jama Masjid, Red fort. These are the typical areas of interest but we now need to go beyond these. The GoI (Government of India) is ready to invest and there is a scheme called Swadeshi Darshan Scheme, with which we are trying to explore a couple of new concepts. One of the themes is 1857 – we are assessing what all sites are there, is there requisite street furniture, are the places clean and accessible?
The second area we are exploring to develop is the Mehrauli area where there are many ASI (The Archaeological Survey of India) sites. The effort will be to create a nice pedestrian circuit with the right ambience so that people can walk around and discover things. Third is Chandni Chowk, where we are planning to include the old havelis into our tourist route. These havelis are so well- maintained and Chandni Chowk or old delhi is a point of great interest for any traveller or tourist who comes to Delhi. At present, these are raw ideas and we are inviting new thoughts on them. The fact is that Delhi is culturally such a rich place and we need to harness its potential.
In addition we are trying to develop a few water bodies. At India Gate, we are trying to create proper ambience and boating facilities. At Hauz khas, there is a beautiful water body, where we are tying up with DDA to initiate boating. At Balaswa, again there is a water body waiting to be developed but it is currently being polluted by people residing there.
Delhi is a leading tourist destination on the travel itinerary of most domestic and international tourists. What do you think is the one thing that can be counted as the USP of Delhiis it Heritage, Monument, Food, Entertainment, Shopping element or the weather?
Delhi is very culturally rich and it has a history of hundreds of years and is yet very cosmopolitan. Many people have come, settled and moved on. It has elements of both antiquity and modernism and if marketed well, it can be the leading tourist destination of the world. We are putting an Interpretation Centre very soon, at each of our haats, to explain what can be seen in Delhi. But then there are also too many agencies to co-ordinate with and with heritage structures, there are other issues with ASI. Nonetheless, we are initiating efforts.
There are three Dilli haats run by Delhi tourism department. What is the overriding theme that binds the three and how are you promoting these recognising that the customers today have a choice of visiting malls and theme parks?
We have three Dilli haats and out of these, the INA one is doing very well. In fact the INA one was on the list of places to be visited by the recent ASEAN delegation at Republic Day. INA is doing so well that the best artisans are being acknowledged at international level as well. At Dilli haat Janakpuri the hustle and bustle has already started and in particular the auditorium and amphitheater are doing well. We are trying to get some upmarket designers to come and do exhibitions there to promote the place. The efforts are on to make the Pitampura one as well. As you will notice, there are haats in different parts of the city – this creates geographical spread and spatial diversity. In fact, our latest project is the Shyam Lal project at Kangan heri.
Many say that tourism and real estate are the first casualty of Delhi’s deteriorating air quality. What is the biggest challenge out of infrastructure, pollution and crime, coming in the way of harnessing Delhi’s tourism potential?
We have no quantitative analysis to prove this but I am certain that Delhi’s crime and pollution are key deterrents for growth of tourism. Infrastructure is improving and needs to further improve but it is still good. Delhi is a very important place from every perspective-social, political, historical, cultural, financial. Being the capital city, it’s the seat of political power and various stakes are involved. If very soon these problems of pollution and crime are not resolved, it will discourage people from com- ing here.
In India tourists, on average, pay 30 percent tax on hotel rooms and travel compared with less than 10 percent in South East Asian countries. What are the expectations from the Budget 201819. Do you think there is a move towards easing taxes?
I have got nothing to say. But since I have been dealing with tourism industry, I feel we should make every effort to make the environment people friendly. Anyone should be able to move freely, feel safe, secure. Every tourist place needs to be accessible and reasonable in cost parameters also. Wherever we have tourist coming, ambience should be good. Cleanliness is important. The other hat I wear is that of head of DUSIB, where swatchta is our motto. We have made 600 community toilets and by now, North, South and East Corporation have become “Open-defecation free”. Lakhs of people have benefitted.
Please tell us about your work on rehabilitation of slums as spearheading DUSIB?
Recently GoI came up with a Slum Rehabilitation Policy 2050 – where they fixed eligibility parameters. Flats have to be made “in situ”, means ‘on site’. Under the PMAY (Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana), a number of flats have been constructed at Dwarka and Sultanpuri. This is Phase 1 of the project, where 1000 families were provided housing. At Balaswa, another 5,000 flats are being made and people will be shifted. Land will be reclaimed.
There are in total 675 JJ colonies, out of which slum rehabilitation for 176 colonies is being done by DUSIB while some are being done by Delhi Govt, MCD. We are building some 50-60,000 houses. It’s a simple PPP (Public Private Partnership) model where builders can build houses and use some part of land to recover cost and funding of the project.