Cen­tre will not dic­tate food choice: Alphons

Two months into his stint as tourism min­is­ter, spells out his view on re­li­gious tourism and plans for the sec­tor in a con­ver­sa­tion with Ex­cerpts:

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - TIMES NATION -

You have been tourism min­is­ter for two months now. What have been your key learn­ings? Cur­rently, In­dia re­ceives about 14.5 mil­lion tourists an­nu­ally, of which 8.5 mil­lion are for­eign­ers. Though our growth has been about 10%, this is not enough. France’s Lou­vre Mu­seum, for in­stance, gets 22 mil­lion tourists an­nu­ally. Why should In­dia not at­tract the same num­bers? Tourism has a mul­ti­plier ef­fect, both on em­ploy­ment and on rev­enue gen­er­a­tion.

What, ac­cord­ing to you, are the prob­lem ar­eas pos­si­bly hold­ing back for­eign tourists? One prob­lem is that In­dia is per­ceived as a filthy coun­try. This is some­thing that the PM has been work­ing very hard to cor­rect. While the mes­sage has now reached every per­son in the coun­try, the PM and the Pres­i­dent talk­ing about clean­li­ness can­not bring about last-mile changes. Lo­cal bod­ies and cit­i­zens must get in­volved. Also, there is a per­cep­tion that In­dia is not safe enough. My po­si­tion is that In­dia is very safe. The US, which gets far more tourists than us, is a lot more un­safe. At the same time, I think we need bet­ter polic­ing, and a sep­a­rate cadre of tourist po­lice.

So what changes are you propos­ing? Our aim is to of­fer help in cre­at­ing in­fra­struc­ture while giv­ing ideas to states. In Ko­valam (Ker­ala), once a hub of tourists, not a sin­gle char­tered air­craft lands any more. That’s be­cause there are no toi­lets. Those that are there are not prop­erly main­tained. Hampi, an­other her­itage site, has the same prob­lem.

There’s a per­cep­tion that the In­cred­i­ble In­dia 2.0 cam­paign has taken a ‘re­li­gious’ turn. Do you agree? See, I have to cater to what peo­ple want. Seventy per cent of in­ward travel in In­dia is re­li­gious travel. So, I have to make that ex­pe­ri­ence bet­ter. The min­istry is spend­ing more on de­vel­op­ing re­li­gious cir­cuits, and the Pil­grim­age Re­ju­ve­na­tion and Spir­i­tu­al­ity Aug­men­ta­tion Drive (PRASAD) schemes, among oth­ers. This in­volves all re­li­gions. It is the states which make the sug­ges­tions.

Is there an at­tempt to de­value the Taj Ma­hal? What the UP gov­ern­ment tried to do was to say that there are des­ti­na­tions other than the Taj that are im­por­tant. The UP gov­ern­ment made it very clear that Taj is at the core of UP’s tourism. There is no doubt about that. The en­tire is­sue was grossly mis­un­der- stood. The gov­ern­ment has no in­ten­tion to de­value the Taj Ma­hal. It shall al­ways con­tinue to be the big­gest tourist des­ti­na­tion in In­dia.

Food, a vi­tal part of In­cred­i­ble In­dia, has also at­tracted con­tro­versy. Is the gov­ern­ment at­tempt­ing to con­trol what peo­ple eat? The gov­ern­ment of In­dia has made it very clear, and BJP has also made it very clear, that peo­ple in every state will de­cide what they want to eat. The Cen­tre is not go­ing to dic­tate all these things. We are very clear on that. Some of the so-called ‘loose state­ments’ are mis­un­der­stood by cer­tain me­dia. It is a demo­cratic coun­try and we have made it very clear that states will de­cide these things. So, let us put an end to this con­tro­versy. The Cen­tre does not dic­tate terms. The states de­cide. The peo­ple de­cide.

Tourism min­is­ter KJ Alphons

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.