“Delhi has a lot to of­fer and the her­itage city is not just about Red Fort and Qutab Mi­nar”

HT Estates - - FRONT PAGE - Nam­rata Kohli ht­es­tates@hin­dus­tan­times.com

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.

Shur­bir Singh

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