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Tuesday, 03 March, 2015, 14 : 30 PM [IST]

Beyond Rhetoric

The honeymoon period for the Modi government is almost over. The Delhi election was sort of a wake-up call for the government. Certain degree of uneasiness has started creeping in slowly among different sections of the society. From the industry, the first salvo was fired recently by Deepak Parekh, Chairman of HDFC. He minced no words when he said nothing has changed on the ground in the last nine months other than just a feeling of optimism. It is a different matter whether one attests to Parekh’s view points on divesting LIC and Air India, but it definitely marks a kind of restlessness from within, from people who worked behind the scenes to bring about the change.

The scenario is not different in the tourism sector. The industry also wants the government to move beyond mere symbolism of HRIDAY and PRASAD. Those who were singing paeans when the government announced the Tourist Visa on Arrival enabled by Electronic Travel Authorisation couple of months back have started raising doubts about its success unless the mandatory requirement of biometrics is not done away with. This shows that lack of convergence among departments of the government continues unabated despite rhetoric upfront.

 Even ministers and higher officials started losing their temper as basic demands which they feel are integral to promote tourism are not getting addressed. The Tourism Minister of Odisha recently took potshots at the Civil Aviation Ministry and at Air India for not heeding the state’s genuine demand to link Bhubaneswar airport with South East Asian cities. The Vice Chairman of Himachal Pradesh Tourism Corporation in a recent PHD Chamber meeting was unsparing on the gross apathy of Central departments, including Tourism Ministry, towards the Himalayan states in terms of marketing and promotional support. When it comes to travel and hospitality education, the Tourism Ministry is yet to look beyond the four walls of the National Council of Hotel Management & Catering Technology. The recent National Award function organised for Excellence in Hospitality Education is a testimony to this. When innumerable universities and private institutes affiliated to All India Council deliver same kind of travel and hospitality education to thousands of career aspirants in this country, how can a government body be so partisan and prejudiced towards just one? How meaningless that exercise would be when you shut your doors for almost 80 per cent of the system?

‘Make in India’ is the current government’s ambitious initiative. The government wants investors to come to India and set up their units here. However, in the light of this new focus, the government is required to revisit some of the existing policies which demotivates or discourages Indian entrepreneurs. Export Promotion Capital Goods (EPCG) is one such policy which helps hospitality industry to procure capital goods from overseas without paying import duties or at a nominal duty. This makes locally manufactured goods uncompetitive. Therefore the grievance of the hotel equipment manufacturers become relevant: Why should a foreign manufacturer open a factory in India when he gets huge sales from hotels in India without any effort because of the EPCG?

P Krishna Kumar
Bureau Chief, New Delhi

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