Shri Prakash Pant, Minister of Tourism in Uttarakhand government, is going to provide air connectivity to the tourists within one year. The government has joined hands with some private companies for this purpose. Organiser representative Ravindra Saini spoke to Shri Pant in Dehradun to know about the major initiatives taken by him to promote tourism in the state. Excerpts:
What are the prominent initiatives taken by you to promote tourism in Uttarakhand?
We are basically following the Tourism Policy of 2001 enacted by our previous government. Our main thrust sectors are?spiritual, adventure and eco-tourism. We have also decided to segregate teerthatan (pilgrimage) from the routine tourism. This has been done keeping in view the growing number of pilgrims in the state. Last year, about one crore 90 lakh tourists visited the state and over 90 per cent of them were pilgrims. We have to make separate arrangements for the pilgrims as per their requirements. The process to segregate it has begun and the infrastructure is being created. We also wish to manage all the Puranic temples through this new department.
What is being done for eco-tourism?
Uttarakhand has about 67 per cent forestland and most of it is reserved forest. It prevents our various other activities. Keeping this in view, we in association with the forest department have decided to start some new activities to attract the tourists in forest areas. The Corbet National Park is the known destination in this regard. We also have Rajaji National Park and Musk Dear Park, which attract lakhs of tourists every year.
What is your most prominent initiative as Tourism Minister now?
Our most prominent imitative is the creation of land bank. We have identified 32 such places in the state, which will basically come under the control of Tourism Development Board. We are soon going to sign an MoU with a private party for the construction of a five-star hotel. We shall give the party 30 acre land on lease of 30 years. The government will get 53 lakh rupees per month or about seven crore per year as lease rent from that party. Thus, the government will get Rs 210 crore in 30 years as lease rent. After 30 years the entire property will go to the government. It is our one of the best achievements.
The land for one such hotel has been identified in Dehradun. We are searching more destinations where we can start such activities. We have reached into an agreement with the WTO, which will fund these activities. In fact WTO is making a Master Plan for the whole state and it has adopted three states in the country for such activities. One among those three states is Uttarakhand. Other places will be developed as per the places identified by the WTO in its new Master Plan.
What is the concept of spiritual tourism?
We are starting it with the organisation of an international yoga event on October 28, 29 and 30 in Rishikesh. It will be organised in association with the Patanjali Yoga Peeth of Baba Ramdev and Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh. Swami Ramdev will attend this camp for all the three days. Since the concept of yoga began from the Himalayas and almost all the yoga gurus have received expertise in this science in this land itself, the Himalayas should get due honour for it. We are making efforts that the gurus of all the yoga vidhas should come at one platform. We have spoken to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and the Dalai Lama. The gurus of Brahmakumaris, Sahajyog, etc. are also expected to participate in the three-day event. Under the spiritual tourism, we wish to establish all the vidhas of spirituality in Uttarakhand whether it is astrology, yoga or anything else. We want that the tourists who come as pilgrim, should return fully recharged.
There are reports of conflicts in management of some big temples in the state. How would you tackle it?
We shall reconstitute the existed boards but it will be done after the expiry of those boards. There have been some allegations of corruption also. Enquiry is going on into it. We shall take an appropriate action after the submission of the report by the enquiry committee.
During the previous BJP regime, there were efforts to start air connectivity for four dhams. What is being done in this regard?
We are going to ensure air connectivity for char dham in Uttarakhand within one year. We have three airstrips?Naini Sani (Pithoragarh), Gochar (Chamoli) and Chainyali Sore (Uttarkashi). We are going to connect these strips with the airports of Jauligrant in Dehradun and Pantnagar. We have handed over this responsibility to IFS, our consulting agency. It has been working on this project. We have decided to engage private airlines through bidding.