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Monday, 20 March, 2017, 11 : 34 AM [IST]

Easier Said than Done!

Defying all odds the Prime Minister has reasserted his political hegemony in the just concluded state elections. The resounding mandate at the elections will definitely act as a morale booster for his government to carry forward the ‘reformist’ agenda more aggressively than before. If the grapevine is anything to be believed, the stake sale of India’s ‘Maharaja’ is among the priorities of the government, especially since the government has outlined “further privatisation” of the aviation sector in the Economic Survey and in the recent Budget.

For the tourism sector, tailwinds are quite favourable with mega tourism infrastructure projects being pushed from the top. The recent decision of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) to revive 50 underserved airports and airstrips at a cost of INR 4,500 crore over the next three years is a step in the direction of improving connectivity and accessibility to the remotest areas of this country. Similarly, in order to fast track the environmental clearances for projects falling under the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ), the concerned Ministry has introduced a novel e-application process to synergise project approval in a timely manner. This is especially significant in the light of the recent CAG report, which indicted the department for procedural deficiencies and inordinate delays in according project clearances and taking action against Environment Management Plan commitments by project proponents.

For tourism sector, the initiative is all the more relevant considering the government’s green signal to develop islands in the Andaman Sea as well as Lakshadweep for hi-end tourism. Moreover, in this year’s budget, the government has proposed setting up of Special Tourism Zones (STZ), which in the course of implementation, might require umpteen clearances and approvals.

While it is improper to cast aspersions on the intention of the government in going ahead with such ambitious plans and projects, there are enough and more reasons to believe that these projects are easier said than done in Indian conditions, especially since multiple agencies are sitting on scrutiny and pass judgments on issues of land use, environment, etc. There were numerous instances in the past to cite when projects worth crores of private investments got into legal tangles mid-way and even after completion due to activism both judicial and otherwise.

While planners want Incredible India to catch up on the ‘product’ side with Singapore, Malaysia, Mauritius and the likes through these mega projects for hi-end tourism, there is, of course, the danger ‘enclavisation’ hidden beneath the surface. This is diagonally against the spirit of sustainable and responsible tourism, especially when the global body for tourism, UNWTO, is celebrating the current year as International Year of Sustainable Tourism!

P Krishna Kumar
Bureau Chief, New Delhi
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