MoS (INDEPENDENT CHARGE) FOR CULTURE AND TOURISM
FROM INTRODUCING E-VISAS TO recognising tourist circuits and launching a vernacular interface for international travellers, Mahesh Sharma has offered a significant promotional boost to the industry. “We have sanctioned Rs 4,800 crore for theme-based circuits under the Swadesh Darshan Yojana; Rs 488 crore has been
allocated for spiritual tourism,” he says. “It will take us about a year to complete these projects.” The ministry’s drafting of a new tourism policy has been welcomed by Aditi Chanchani, director of Equations, a non-profit organisation that studies the impact of tourism on local communities. At the same time, she is not entirely pleased with the ministry’s approach. “The ministry sought contributions only from formal stakeholders .... There is no acknowledgement of people whose homes and backyards are promoted as tourism destinations,” she says. As culture minister, Sharma has fewer accomplishments. “It has revived the IGNCA, and it is easier for artists to apply for and get grants,” says Ashish Mohan Khokar, an authority on Indian arts and culture. But there is still no word on a cultural policy and no assessment of organisations such as the Sangeet Natak Akademi.