What’s behind Iconic Tourist Sites initiative?

Source: indianexpress.com

During her Budget speech earlier this month, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharamansaid that 17 “Iconic Tourist Sites” in the country would be developed by the government “into world class tourist destinations, to serve as a model for other tourism sites”. The initiative was aimed at enhancing India’s soft power.

The Sites

Taj Mahal and Fatehpur Sikri (Uttar Pradesh), Ajanta & Ellora (Maharashtra), Humayun’s Tomb, Red Fort and Qutub Minar (Delhi), Colva (Goa), Amer Fort (Rajasthan), Somnath and Dholavira (Gujarat), Khajuraho (Madhya Pradesh), Hampi (Karnataka), Mahabalipuram (Tamil Nadu), Kaziranga (Assam), Kumarakom (Kerala) and the Mahabodhi Temple (Bihar).

The Vision

Union Tourism and Culture Minister Prahlad Patel told The Indian Express, “The government is looking at overall development from the tourism point of view in and around these sites — which includes roads and infrastructure, hotels and lodges, connectivity and access”. As such, several ministries, from Railways to Civil Aviation, will be involved, while the Tourism Ministry will be the nodal agency. In keeping with international standards, interventions in and around the monuments will have elements of universal accessibility, green technology, and enhanced security for tourists.

The Funding

The Tourism Ministry has been allocated Rs 1,378 crore for the development of tourism infrastructure. This is only marginally more than the allocations in 2017-18 (Rs 1,151 crore) and 2018-19 (Rs 1,330 crore).

Role of ASI

A spokesperson of the Archaeological Survey of India told The Indian Express, “We have not yet received any plan or proposal from the Tourism Ministry about the project mentioned in the Budget… Meanwhile, upgradation and facelift projects at many of these listed sites are already on; some such as Red Fort and Qutub Minar even nearing completion”.

Status of ‘Adopt a Heritage’ scheme

Many of these monuments were opened up for adoption in late 2017 under the Ministry of Tourism’s Adopt a Heritage scheme. The Red Fort was adopted by the Dalmia Group, while the Qutub Minar and the Ajanta Caves were adopted by YatraOnline. But the momentum of the scheme has slowed down since, and only 11 MoUs have been signed so far.