Panel Finds ‘Incredible India’, ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ Only on Paper
The ongoing schemes of the BJP government are in lurch and money spent so far has been wasteful.
- ‘Incredible India’ and ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ programmes launched after BJP government came to power in May 2014.
- Today, both programmes, backed by an allocation of Rs 845 crore, haven’t moved beyond files.
- Tourism ministry officials have revealed that there has been considerable wastage of funds.
- Centre drastically slashed initial allocation of Rs 2,808.06 crore to a meagre Rs 20 crore for 2016-17, causing huge financial crisis in the tourism ministry.
- A parliamentary panel has said that huge variation or shortfall in allocation and expenditure does not “augur well for a sustained tourism development.”
- It fears tourism ministry may not be able to achieve the desired level of development of tourist infrastructure.
The penchant for making big announcements and coining new slogans to hardsell certain ‘products’ is not limited to the corporate world. The Narendra Modi government too seems to have been bitten by the advertising bug, though with little success.
Soon after assuming power in May 2014, the BJP-led NDA government announced several ventures, with massive allocations, to attract foreign tourists to India. Deluding itself to believe that Prime Minister Modi’s foreign trips, in which he showcased India, would attract tourists to the country, the ‘Incredible India’ and subsequently the ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ programmes were drawn up by the Ministry of Tourism.
The brand ambassador for the ‘Incredible India’ project is lyricist Prasoon Joshi who replaced actor Aamir Khan after the latter’s disgraceful removal some time ago.
Two years after they were conceived, both ‘Incredible India’ and ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ programmes, supported by an allocation of Rs 845 crore for Product/Infrastructure Development for Destinations and Circuits (PIDDC), are now merely left on paper.
Abruptly stopping sanction for these schemes, by the Centre, created utter confusion not only among the state governments but also the tourism ministry.Dr Kanwar Deep Singh, Chairman, Department-Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture
A detailed report on the functioning of the tourism ministry, led by Lok Sabha BJP MP Mahesh Sharma, reveals that for a good part of 2015-16, the officials concerned “remained clueless about what is to be done, especially of the ongoing schemes under PIDDC in which a considerable amount had already been spent.” In other words, the amount spent on the schemes were flushed down the drain.
In another startling revelation, the committee observes that the government drastically slashed the initial allocation of Rs 2,808.06 crore to a meagre Rs 20 crore for 2016-17, thus causing huge financial crisis in the tourism ministry which had made commitments with various state governments and central organisations such as the Human Resource Development Ministry.
Slashing of Funds
For reasons best known to the Union government, the slashing of funds has put a huge question mark on completion of various ongoing projects. The ongoing schemes are in lurch and money spent so far has been wasteful, the committee observes in anguish.
The parliamentary panel has, however, recommended that sufficient funds for completing the schemes be allocated to meet the requirements under the ongoing PIDDC projects across most states and Union Territories.
Swachh Bharat on Backfoot
Even the Prime Minister’s pet project – the ‘Swachh Bharat’ programme that partly aimed at keeping tourist hotspots such as historical monuments, pilgrimage centres and specific sites of historical and religious importance clean – has lost momentum, though the drive was started with great enthusiasm, the report says.
While recommending “mild penalties” against people or private organisations who litter public places and tourist sites, the committee notes that organisers of large events and congregations – such Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living which recently staged the so-called World Culture Festival on the banks of the Yamuna in Delhi – “should be held responsible for disposal and management of waste once such events are over.”
Besides, the committee has found a mismatch between the total outlay for the Ministry of Tourism for the 12th Five Year Plan and the annual allocation. Even though the total outlay was Rs 15,190 crore, the annual budgetary allocations remained far below the proportionate allocation required as per the total outlay which was cut by 57%.
Tourism in Doldrums?
Such variation or shortfall in allocation and expenditure does not “augur well for a sustained tourism development in the country,” the committee says, expressing its displeasure.
The panel is “afraid that if this trend continues”, the ministry would not be able to achieve the desired level of development of tourist infrastructure, training and skill development and promotion of publicity by the end of the 12th Five Year Plan period.
The panel’s concern is evident from the fact that the tourism ministry submitted a proposal for Rs 2,897.15 crore as budgetary outlay for 2015-16.
However, only Rs 1,483.20 crore was allocated, which constitutes about 51.89%. This amount was further reduced to Rs 850 core at the revenue expenditure stage. The cumulative expenditure during the year (quarter ending February 2016) was a mere Rs 667.16 crore.
(The writer is a senior Delhi-based journalist)
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