CUL­TURAL SHIFT

There has been progress in tourism, cul­ture, sports, en­vi­ron­ment and so­cial jus­tice, but chal­lenges re­main

India Today - - 30 YEARS OF MODI GOVERNMENT | SOCIETY - By Kaushik Deka

IN THE BUD­GET FOR 2017-18, five min­istries—tourism, cul­ture, sports and youth af­fairs, en­vi­ron­ment and cli­mate change and so­cial jus­tice and em­pow­er­ment—were al­lo­cated a to­tal of Rs 16,104 crore, just 1.51 per cent of the Rs 10,62,751 crore al­lo­cated for var­i­ous sec­tors. This num­ber is some in­di­ca­tion of the Modi gov­ern­ment’s em­pha­sis—or lack of it—on th­ese min­istries. Ac­cord­ing to a March 2017 re­port by the World Travel and Tourism Coun­cil, the tourism in­dus­try in In­dia di­rectly sup­ported 25.3 mil­lion jobs, which is 5.8 per cent of the coun­try’s to­tal jobs.

In the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum’s list on travel and tourism com­pet­i­tive­ness this year, In­dia has been ranked 40, a con­sid­er­able jump of 12 places from 2015. It’s also the big­gest leap any coun­try has taken in that rank­ing. In­dia’s travel and tourism sec­tor was also the fastest grow­ing amongst G20 na­tions, grow­ing by 8.5 per cent in 2016.

Ex­perts be­lieve the growth has been pro­pelled by ini­tia­tives such as recog­nis­ing five tourist cir­cuits and a boost to re­li­gious tourism, but poor in­fra­struc­ture still re­mains a big im­ped­i­ment to growth. “The gov­ern­ment should fo­cus on build­ing world-class leisure des­ti­na­tion in­fra­struc­ture,” says Deep Kalra, chair­man and CEO of make­mytrip.com. What also re­mains a chal­lenge is that th­ese fig­ures are pre­dom­i­nantly gen­er­ated by do­mes­tic travel, which ac­counted for 88 per cent of the sec­tor’s con­tri­bu­tion to GDP in 2016.

How­ever, Sharma’s per­for­mance as a min­is­ter for cul­ture doesn’t match up to his achieve­ments as a tourism min­is­ter. He has in­tro­duced some trans­parency in the grants of funds and schol­ar­ships, but sev­eral in­sti­tutes un­der the min­istry re­main head­less.

The big­gest re­form by the min­istry of so­cial jus­tice and

em­pow­er­ment has been the de­ci­sion to dis­band the Na­tional Com­mis­sion for Back­ward Classes (NCBC) and re­place it with a Na­tional Com­mis­sion for So­cially and Ed­u­ca­tion­ally Back­ward Classes (NCSEBC). More than re­form, it was a re­ac­tion to two de­vel­op­ments. Firstly, it was the BJP’s tacit ac­knowl­edge­ment that sup­port from Other Back­ward Classes played a cru­cial role in its vic­tory in the Ut­tar Pradesh elec­tions. The de­ci­sion came within a week of Jat ag­i­ta­tors from Haryana threat­en­ing to dis­rupt life in Delhi. The UPA gov­ern­ment had in­cluded that com­mu­nity in the Cen­tral OBC list a day be­fore the 2014 par­lia­men­tary polls were an­nounced, but the no­ti­fi­ca­tion was scrapped by the Supreme Court. The BJP gov­ern­ment per­haps doesn’t want a re­peat of that sit­u­a­tion.

An­other de­vel­op­ment is the 35 per cent rise from last year in funds al­lo­cated for the wel­fare of Sched­uled Castes. Nearly 54 per cent of the min­istry’s bud­get is spent on schol­ar­ships for Sched­uled Castes. With the launch of the Ac­ces­si­ble In­dia Cam­paign, spe­cial camps have been or­gan­ised for distri­bu­tion of aids and as­sis­tive de­vices to 600,000 peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties. The types of dis­abil­i­ties have been in­creased from 7 to 21. Quota for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties in gov­ern­ment jobs has been in­creased from 3 to 4 per cent.

In sports, de­spite min­is­ter Vi­jay Goel’s per­sonal in­ter­ven­tion, there has been no ma­jor re­form. The gov­ern­ment is plan­ning to ta­ble the new na­tional sports code in the mon­soon ses­sion of Par­lia­ment. Pan­els have been set up to pre­pare ath­letes for the next Olympics and new schemes launched to find sport­ing tal­ent, but the pace of ex­e­cu­tion re­mains slow. “The gov­ern­ment must cre­ate an in­sti­tu­tional frame­work that in­stils con­fi­dence in par­ents and chil­dren to take up sports as a full-time ca­reer,” says team In­dia foot­baller Goura­mangi Singh.

In the en­vi­ron­ment min­istry, Anil Mad­hav Dave’s tar­get is to bring down the av­er­age wait­ing pe­riod for project ap­proval to 100 days. His tough­est chal­lenge, how­ever, will be to make a fi­nal de­ci­sion after the Ge­netic En­gi­neer­ing Ap­praisal Com­mit­tee rec­om­mended ap­proval for the com­mer­cial pro­duc­tion of GM mus­tard. The BJP’s ide­o­log­i­cal par­ent, the RSS, is ve­he­mently op­posed. For now, there is respite for Dave as a par­lia­men­tary stand­ing com­mit­tee is look­ing into the is­sue.

The Big Thing Nearly 54 per cent of the bud­get of the min­istry of so­cial jus­tice is spent on schol­ar­ships for Sched­uled Castes

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