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Fortunate to be Assam’s tourism ambassador: Priyanka Chopra

Guwahati: Bollywood actress and newly-appointed Assam’s tourism brand ambassador Priyanka
Chopra on Saturday said that she would show the world how “awesome the state is”.

“I am fortunate that the government of Assam has appointed me as the tourism ambassador of the state and I will take the state, its people, food, wildlife, greenery, culture and food to the global stage and truly show the world how awesome Assam is,” Chopra told reporters in Guwahati.

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal presents a memento to Bollywood actress and Brand Ambassador of Assam Tourism Priyanka Chopra during a meeting  in Guwahati on Saturday. PTIAssam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal presents a memento to Bollywood actress and Brand Ambassador of Assam Tourism Priyanka Chopra during a meeting  in Guwahati on Saturday. PTI

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal presents a memento to Bollywood actress and brand ambassador of Assam Tourism Priyanka Chopra during a meeting in Guwahati on Saturday. PTI

“The true essence of Assam and the North East is not appreciated fully in India and maybe even the world does not
know much about it, but I am committed to present the incredible part of Assam’s diversity and unity to the outside world in the right perspective,” she said.

“I may not have been born in Assam but I am an Indian and take incredible pride in my country. Assam is a part of India and I am as much a part of this state as any other part of the country…. As such, I can claim to be an Honorary Assamese,” the Padmashri awardee said.

Asked whether due to her busy schedule she can justify her commitment to the cause, Chopra said that she has not ever let anyone down and takes her responsibility and commitments very seriously.

“My managers plan my schedules well and I have kept my commitments so far. I am committed to discover Assam and show my discovery to the world,” she said.

The actress, who had portrayed the protagonist in the Bollywood film Mary Kom, said that the Northeast is the crowning glory of India and the seven sister states are its jewels.

Though each may have a different essence yet all are beautiful in their own way, she said.

“I have travelled with Mary to Manipur and had earlier come to Guwahati when my uncle was posted here and also after becoming Miss India for different fashion shows. The experience in Manipur and Assam are different but both have been beautiful,” the “Bajirao Mastani” actor said.

Priyanka, who visited the Kamakhya Temple earlier in the day said she was moved and inspired to be blessed by Ma
Kamakhya at the end of the year and was looking forward to experience the Brahmaputra, wildlife, particularly rhinos, trekking, mountaineering and rafting.

First Published On : Dec 24, 2016 22:33 IST

Find out how India’s vastly unexplored 7,500 km coastline can generate millions of jobs

In many ways, India looked a gift-horse in the mouth. And the gift was water.

For centuries, India ignored the seas. It has a 7,500 km long coastline which it did not bother about very much. True, the government built 12 ports (government owned ports are called major ports). But it forgot to promote coastal development and coastal tourism. As a result India has a coastline that is largely uninhabited, leaving it open to incursions by smugglers and terrorists. India forgot the old adage that the best type of security is eyes on the ground.

The typical answer was that security concerns prevented the Indian Navy from allowing boats to ply along certain areas, or for boats to land in some other areas. Someone should have pointed naval officers to Portsmouth and Glasgow, where leisure and fishing boats bob around naval frigates.

For security, the Navy depends on excellent eaves dropping equipment, and guards who stand near the prow and watch the waters. Activity keeps them alert and awake. Had there been no boats around, they could not really be faulted for dozing off.



And Britain with its limited coastline earns over GNP 450 billion annually. India could have earned a lot more and even created employment for millions.

India forgot that a 7,500 km coastline is like a 7,500 km 40 lane highway that the country would not have to finance, build or even maintain. It was god’s gift to promote coastal tourism and coastal transport.

Ditto with India’s rivers. Like elsewhere in the world, the biggest cities India had were those on the shores of rivers or seas. But then came the railway network. The British wanted this to become viable and hence promoted rail travel. Riverine cities went into decline and so did India’s rivers. With a majority of population forsakes river travel, it is bound to go into disuse. And abetted by the collusive role that politicians and executives have played all along, it was not surprising that even rivers became polluted. They became repugnant, and traversed only by those who could not afford the rail network.

All this is about to change – and with a clear focus on both development and in creating jobs. Many of the changes India will witness will be on the coastal front, the river front and the connectivity of roads and rails to such spots. In an exclusive half-an-hour interview with R.N.Bhaskar of Firstpost, Rajive Kumar, Secretary, Shipping, outlined some of the key areas where such changes can be expected (click here for the full interview).


Kumar talks about the relevance of port-led development and what the Sagarmala scheme promoted by this government really means. He points out how this will lead to employment generation which is so crucial for a youthful population that India has. He expects such port-led development to generate around 40 lakh jobs, in addition to generating indirect employment for another 60 lakh people. He expects these targets to be achieved within the next five years. But port development – in itself – will continue for a longer period, and could generate many more jobs. The investment outlays planned for this entire exercise is expected to be in the region of Rs 4 lakh crore (4 trillion). The first phase is expected to be completed by 2020 and the second phase by 2025.

Kumar goes on to speak about the Sagarmala project which has four components. The first three of these will involve ensuring adequate port capacity. This is expected to double the existing port capacity of 1,550 million tones to around 3,000 million tones

The second phase will ensure fuller utilisation of existing ports. The ministry has already received 116 recommendations of which 60 have been completed. The adoption of these recommendations alone has allowed for an increase in port capacity by 80 million tonnes at zero cost. Turnaround time has been reduced from 5 days to 3.5 and the plan is to further reduce it to 3 days.

The third aspect is hinterland connectivity. The government has identified 82 road projects and 28 railway projects that need to be implemented. As many as 50 of the road projects will be taken by the NHAI (national Highways Authority of India) and the balance by state governments through their various bodies including the PWDs. Many of these would be taken up under the road ministry’s Bharatmala programme. The road projects also include 10 expressways.

Of the 28 railway projects, the railways will pick up 21. Kumar expects to invest Rs 1.5 lakh crore of the Rs 4 lakh crore of investments in such rail connectivity projects.

The problem will be with small projects that are crucial for the last mile connectivity. It is for this that the government has formed a new company called the Indian Port Rail Company. Then there is the Sagarmala Development Company (SDC) which has been mandated to take up equity participation in partnership with private players who could take up these projects.

In order to ensure that all these projects get taken up and get implemented properly, the government has set up an institutional mechanism. This will enable better cooperation between states and the ministry for implementing road, rail, and port and river projects in partnership with the states.

CEZs and community development

But the centerpiece of all these plans is to usher in what Kumar calls “port-led industrialization and the development of CEZs or coastal economic zones. Each coastal economic development zone will be attached to one port — either private or public. The government has identified 14 CEZs, and the process of working on land acquisition has already commenced.

But the most important part will be community development without which all the other plans might just crumble. This includes (a) fishery development and (b) skill development. The ministry has got studies done of 23 (of the total of 78) coastal districts and the rest of the studies should get completed by the end of this year.

Almost simultaneously, the government plans to promote coastal tourism along India’s coastline and also along its rivers. This includes promoting ocean cruises as well as river cruises. Development of beaches is also being explored with the tourism ministry. In order to give this a big thrust, suitable sections of the existing legal framework relating to cabotage are also being modified for specialised vessels like cruise boats, ro-ro (roll on roll off boats on which vehicles can just roll on and then roll off) and ro-pax vessels that allow passengers to be transported along with vehicles (22:57 to 26:00). In order to provide a greater thrust to commercial autonomy, the government wants to redefine the role of TAMP (Tariff Authority for Major Ports).

But the shipping ministry’s plans go beyond the domestic arena. It wants to look at the development of ports overseas as well for which Indian Ports Global (IPG) was formed a few years ago. The ministry hopes to rope in the private sector too for the development of ports overseas. India has already helped Myanmar develop the Sitwe port, and now India will be developing ports in Iran, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh as well. This will be in addition to the development of the Chabahar port in Iran which holds out enormous commercial and strategic significance for India.

Significantly, the vision for development includes the development of waterways. The government has already identified 111 waterways for navigation and of these 30 are being taken up for development during the next 3 years. As many as 8 of these are to be developed during this year itself. The government is also developing a design for building a 2500 tonne barge that can operate in rivers with a draft of just 2.5 meters. 2,500 tonnes would be equivalent to an entire freight train. Currently, there are barges that ferry as much as 2,000 tonnes per barge.

If all goes well, expect India to see a more vibrant coastline, and the emergence of many more jobs. All this is bound to translate into better economic well-being for most Indians. Not surprisingly, these plans are being called “harnessing the waters of life”.

First Published On : Dec 23, 2016 16:08 IST

Goa tourism shifts majority of its services on cashless payment facilities

Panaji: As Goa works its way towards becoming India’s first cashless society, the state tourism department has shifted majority of its services on cashless payment facilities.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

“Whether hotel reservations, package tours, cruise rides or any other tourism service, the Goa Tourism Development Corporation has introduced systems that have facilitated cashless transactions, both online and offline,” GTDC Chairman Nilesh Cabral said on Thursday.

“Cashless facility is made possible by GTDC through online web portal, booking of services and products through mobile app available on iOS and android platform at GTDC residencies and restaurants through point-of-sale (POS) machines, thus enabling a 360 degree approach to the new cashless system,” he said.

The GTDC is also working to introduce pay wallets and  talks are underway with leading service providers so that it can be accepted as another mode of cashless payments.

“To further this process, the launch of the new e-commerce portal and mobile app in February this year has  provided a foolproof platform for e-business and cashless transactions, also bringing other tourism stakeholders into the cashless circuit,” Cabral said.

As per GTDC’s records, cashless transactions to the tune of Rs 2.5 lakh to Rs 3 lakh are executed daily for various services provided by the corporation, which is in addition to cashless transactions recorded on its e-commerce portal and mobile app, he said.

GTDC’s General Manager (Hotels) Gavin Dias said, “All GTDC residencies are provided with point-of-sale (POS) machines to facilitate cashless payments and most tourists prefer to use this facility. It is encouraging to see tourists opting for cashless transactions.”

Dias said in addition to cashless business for hotel accommodation, GTDC, through the e-commerce portal, has direct tie-ups with more than 160 hotels and also with channel managers like Staah and Maximojo for tourists to book accommodation using cashless modes of transaction.

Cashless transactions have already become very popular and an easy way out for both tourists and tourism stakeholders, he said.

Goa attracts more than 5 million tourists annually and GTDC is eventually looking at bringing in every tourism stakeholder, whether tourist taxis, souvenir shops, guest houses, restaurants etc, under cashless business.

First Published On : Dec 1, 2016 12:45 IST

Relive the glory of Mandu’s historic ruins with a 360-degree walkthrough

Imagine a house in the middle of a water body — a palace rather! If that seems like a wallpaper for your computer or some surreal, out-of-this-world image, then we’ll tell you that it is actually the Jahaj Mahal, in the city of Mandu.

The ruins of the city of Mandavgarh — also known as Mandu, and enfolded by twin lakes — still bear testimony to the grandeur of its exquisite Afghan architecture. The most famous of its structures is the Jahaj Mahal — a palace surrounded by water; a ship about to embark on a voyage.

Ruins of ManduRuins of Mandu

A 360-degree walk-through features this very palace, the famous high terraces of Mandu and the enormous Hindola Mahal. Witnessing something that’s deeply embedded in the past is a delight. The city has existed since the 6th Century BC, and the stone and mortar it was made with has somehow, successfully withstood the passage of time.

Hindola Mahal, which you see later in the walk-through, is a large meeting hall that depicts the architectural style of the era.

Watch this to experience it virtually; visit to experience it in reality.

The 77 degree angle which gives an impression that the building is swinging

The 77 degree angle which gives an impression that the building is swinging

First Published On : Nov 28, 2016 12:26 IST

Demonetization: LDF strike begins in Kerala, tourism sector exempted

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The 12-hour strike called by the CPI(M)-led LDF government in Kerala, as part of the nationwide agitation by opposition parties against demonetization and the resultant crisis being faced by the cooperative sector in the state, began this morning.In the early hours of the strike which started at 6.00 am, autorickshaws were seen plying in some places, providing some relief to people.Police vehicles were used to transport railway passengers and patients coming from far off places to the Regional Cancer Centre here. Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) and private buses are keeping off roads in most places.Some Sabarimala pilgrims who arrived at Kottayam by train complained that they were unable to leave for the Ayyappa temple as buses were not plying. “We have been waiting for hours. Though some private taxis are available, we cannot afford them as the fares are exorbitant,” a man from Andhra Pradesh said. The tourism sector and vehicles of Sabarimala pilgrims have been exempted from the strike.Keeping in mind the peak tourist season, the government had decided to exempt tourists from the strike. It has issued instructions to all departments concerned, including police to take all possible steps to ensure that the tourism sector was not hit by the strike. Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran had also requested for exemption of tourists and tourist vehicles from the strike.German Cruise liner AIDAbella which had arrived in Kochi made a turnaround call at the Kochi port yesterday. At least 1000 tourists would be arriving at the airport today to embark the vessel, while some would be leaving it to explore various places. Tour operators were assured by Tourism Principal Secretary V Venu that the hartal would not affect the visitors.The opposition Congress-led UDF would be taking out a march to the Raj Bhavan here at 11.00 am on the crisis being faced by the cooperative sector. Banks, newspapers, milk supply, hospitals and marriage functions would be exempted from the shutdown, LDF convener Vaikom Viswam had said in a statement.The LDF had announced the strike as part of the nationwide protest against the Centre’s move of scrapping Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes.

Indore-Patna Express tragedy: Only 78 passengers eligible for insurance

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Only 78 passengers of the ill-fated Indore-Patna Express are eligible to claim insurance money, out of whom five died in the mishap, IRCTC said on Thursday.According to IRCTC, a total of 209 passengers opted for travel insurance while booking tickets as of November 19. There were 128 passengers eligible for insurance, out of which 50 tickets were cancelled, leaving 78 eligible passengers.Five among these passengers died in the tragedy, in addition to seven cases of injury and hospitalisation and eight minor injuries. The optional insurance scheme offers travellers or their families compensation of up to Rs 10 lakh in the event of death or permanent total disability, Rs 7.5 lakh for permanent partial disability, up to Rs 2 lakh for hospitalisation expenses and Rs 10,000 for transportation of mortal remains in the event of death or injury from a train accident or other untoward incident, including terrorist attacks, dacoity, rioting, shoot-out or arson, as well as for short termination, diverted route and Vikalp trains.Processing of insurance payouts to survivors and families of the victims of the train eligible to receive compensation under the travel insurance scheme for passengers who booked their tickets through Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), are on the fast track, said a release .The affected passengers are covered under insurance companies – Royal Sundaram (32), Shriram (14) and ICICI Lombard (32).The claim for the five death cases has been provisionally approved by the insurance companies, and they are in touch with the families to complete the claim settlement formalities.Only one passenger had filled up the nominee details for the insurance while for the remaining four the claim settlement will be made with the legal heir as soon as the documents are provided. The families have requested time for providing the documents.For the seven injury cases, insurance companies are getting in touch with the passengers and their families. A few of these cases are for cashless hospitalisations or through TPA (third party administrator).In case of 36 passengers, the insurance companies are not able to make contact as the phone numbers provided are either switched off or not reachable. In these cases firms have sent emails on the given ID, inquiring about their well being and providing contact details of the representative of insurance company.

#Partnered: More than erotica, a 360° walk through the temples of Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh

On arriving in Khajuraho, your mind is filled with thoughts about what you’re about to see, the inscriptions, sculptures; the popular imagery about the place. But when you enter the various temples here, you’ll see the walls you expected to be covered in erotica, actually have engravings of day-to-day processes.

Desire here becomes a vague term, because it can be interpreted in more ways than one: an (excessive) need for sex, to achieving divinity via satisfaction. The things you learn from these walls and the metaphors inscribed on them are significant.

Here’s a 360-degree view of a little expedition we had at Khajuraho.

Don’t miss the last shot in the video: it comprises a rather recent construction (from the 19th century), which is meant to unify religions. A Hindu spire, a Jain cupola, a Buddhist stupa and mosque-style dome.

A virtual tour will only give you a glimpse at this land of mysticism. To witness it in reality, we suggest you pay a visit.

The only thing Khajuraho lacks, is connectivity. If it were to have better roads leading to its monuments, it would flourish as a tourist location.

First Published On : Nov 22, 2016 17:56 IST

Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma addresses New Zealand PM John Key ‘His excellency PM McCullum’

New Delhi: Minister of Culture Mahesh Sharma made a faux pas at an event in New Delhi when he addressed New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key as “McCullum”.

The event was organised to promote New Zealand tourism in India and, apart from Sharma and Key, Brendon McCullum, who earlier skippered that country’s cricket team in all three forms of the game, was also present.

The gaffe happened when Sharma began his speech, addressing Key as “His excellency Prime Minister McCullum”.

A file photo of Union Minister of Culture ad Tourism, Mahesh Sharma. Reuters

A file photo of Union Minister of Culture ad Tourism, Mahesh Sharma. Reuters

Moments after the minister made the blunder, Bollywood actor Sidharth Malhotra, who is New Zealand tourism’s ambassador in India, rose to speak but could not recall Sharma’s name. After fumbling for a few seconds, he said wittily “It’s payback time”.

The event was aimed at promoting cultural exchanges between the two countries and, ignoring the mix-up, Key said New Zealand is looking forward to having more Indian tourists visiting the nation.

He said getting Malhotra on board was their way of attracting youngsters from India to visit the country which is one of the best destinations for adventure and nature tourism.

Malhotra, who visited New Zealand last year to shoot some promotional videos, was presented an All Blacks (rugby team) jersey by the Prime Minister and, to honour the foreign dignitary on his India visit, the actor gifted him a handmade lion depicting confidence and power.

The 31-year-old actor will be travelling across New Zealand for around 10 days to shoot a new set of promotional videos.

Kerala’s tiny island Kakkathuruthu included in NatGeo’s best destinations list

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The tiny island of Kakkathuruthu in Kerala’s backwaters has made it to a select list of stunning destinations across the world compiled by the National Geographic magazine. Nestled along the Kerala Coast, the emerald-fringed “Island of Crows” has been listed in National Geographic’s ‘Around the World in 24 Hours’, a photographic tour of travel-worthy spots across the world.”Kerala is known for its rustic beauty and an incredibly picturesque landscape, verdant hills and quiet backwaters, which attract tourists from across the world. It is a matter of pride for us to be listed by Nat Geo, which is among the leading magazines in the world,” said Kerala Tourism Minister A C Moideen.The charm of the small island with sea green waters, lush coconut groves and absence of tarred roads, located in Alappuzha, has been captured by the magazine photographers during the time of dusk when “the shadows lengthen and the sky shifts from pale blue to sapphire.”In a graphic description, the magazine says the sunset in Kerala is greeted by a series of rituals, Sari-clad women head home in skiffs, fishermen light lamps and cast nets into the lagoon and bats swoop across the horizon snapping up moths. If dawn is awakening and daytime illumination, then twilight is transcendence, a final burst of vitality before darkness falls,” said NatGeo Expeditions.Beginning with hunting the aurora borealis in the northern lights zone in Norway at 12 am, the list includes photos of Hawaii at 5 am, Paris at 6 am, San Francisco at 7 am, Abu Dhabi at 8 am, Melbourne at 9 am, New York at 8 pm, Budapest (Hungary) at 10 pm and Kerala at 6 pm, among others, offering a peek into how different places in the world look like.”The recognition is rewarding and will add to our efforts to introduce and showcase different destinations in the nature-endowed state,” Principal Secretary (Tourism), V Venu said.Situated not far from the ancient port city of Kochi, the island of Kakkathuruthu is connected to mainland only by traditional boats. The quiet island, surrounded by the Vembanad Lake, offers a haven for birdwatchers.Kerala Tourism Director U V Jose said, “It is absolutely exhilarating to see the island included in the travel recommendations. It is not only a reaffirmation of Kerala’s natural endowments but also a huge recommendation to international tourists for a tryst with the coastal state.”

Mahesh Sharma denies political agenda, says Ram museum will ‘improve tourism’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Union Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma has downplayed the political uproar created by the announcement of the allocation of huge funds for the building a Ram Museum in Ayodhya. He said it is being taken to give a boost to tourism in India.”Elections are a different thing. Our Prime Minister wants that the nation should develop through all means and similarly he wants development of our country through tourism, and this step will attract tourists,” Sharma told ANI.”When our government came to power, so, from the tourism perspective, we announced plans for theme based circuits, which included a Ram circuit, a Krishna circuit and a Buddha circuit. And under that announcement for Ramayan circuit, the government announced Rs.225 crore, for the Krishna circuit Rs.15 crore and similar amount for the Buddha circuit,” he added.Sharma further said the Ram museum will educate the youth about Ramayan and Lord Ram.”Ayodhya is known by the name of Lord Ram. A lot of people impose their faiths in Ayodhya. We want that the infrastructure should be developed there. We want to build a museum on Ramayana and the life of Lord Ram there so that our young generation visits the place and learns from it,” he said.According to reports, Sharma is expected travel to Ayodhya next week to discuss the blueprint for the museum.He is also scheduled to visit the site of the proposed museum that is expected to come up on 25 acres.

Proposed Ramayana museum revives demand for construction of Ram temple

New Delhi/Lucknow: The contentious issue of Ram temple was suddenly back in the political discourse in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh on Monday, a day ahead of Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma’s visit to Ayodhya on Tuesday to inspect the proposed site for setting up a Ramayana musuem, a move seen as an attempt to woo pro-Hinduvta elements.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

BSP supremo Mayawati, a major contender to power in the key battleground state, Congress and the DMK criticised the move, saying it was being made for “electoral benefits”. The land for the proposed museum has been provided by the Uttar Pradesh government.

“Developing tourism in Ayodhya is good but, how come the Narendra Modi government thought of developing the Ramayana Sangrahalay (museum) and the state government of Ramleela theme park just before the Assembly polls,” she said in a release in Lucknow.

“Linking religion with politics and electoral gains by these governments is condemnable…had they really been so concerned about these issues, they would have thought about them long ago,” the former Uttar Pradesh chief minister said.

Congress leader and former Union minister RPN Singh accused the Modi government and BJP of invoking Ram months ahead of the assembly polls due early next year for deriving political mileage out of it. “We shouldn’t be surprised. Every five years we see the same drama unfolding. Whenever polls are in the state, they talk of Ram, Ram temple, Ram sangrahalaya. They repeatedly raise these issues,” he said.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks of development but what about action….When there is election, he goes to Lucknow to participate in Dussehra festivities and chants ‘Jai Shri Ram‘. Did he say Jai Shri Ram during Dussehra events last year wherever he went?” he said.

The proposed museum revived the demand for construction of Ram temple, with BJP hardliners like Union Minister Uma Bharti and Vinay Katiyar pitching for it. Katiyar went on to demand tabling of a legislation in the Lok Sabha where the BJP-led NDA has a “massive majority”.

“Why only Subramanian Swamy, every devotee of Ram wants the temple to be constructed soon. Until that happens we cannot live in peace. Be it through a bill in Parliament, through dialogue or a court verdict, the government has to find a solution.

“Of course, we don’t have a majority in the Rajya Sabha, but a bill for construction of the temple can be brought in the Lok Sabha where we have a massive majority. The Ram temple was also a part of BJP’s election manifesto,” he said, adding “no deadline can be set for the government on this issue”.

Uma Bharti, another stormy petrel of the Ram temple movement, said, “The issue is what we, the agitators, were claiming as the place where Lord Ram was born was indeed that place or not. A three-judge bench (of Allahabad High Court) agreed with our contention.

“What is under challenge is the dispute over land between the Waqf Board and Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas, not that whether Ram was born there or not,” she said. Mahesh Sharma, however, insisted his visit to Ayodhya had nothing to do with the UP polls, but said he would be visiting the makeshift temple at the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid complex.

“My visit to Ayodhya has nothing to do with UP Assembly elections. I am visiting there as a Tourism Minister. It should not be linked to politics but is part of government’s effort to improve tourism in Ayodhya and all over the country. The visit is part of developmental agenda,” he said.

Ramayana museum: Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma to inspect site in Ayodhya

New Delhi: Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma will visit Ayodhya on Tuesday to inspect the proposed site for setting up a Ramayana museum, a move seen as an attempt to woo pro-Hindutva elements ahead of assembly election in Uttar Pradesh.

Sharma, however, played down the political agenda behind the visit, saying it is part of the tourism development plans of the Modi-government and should not be linked with elections in the politically crucial state, which goes to polls early next year.

File photo of Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma. PTI

File photo of Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma. PTI

“My visit to Ayodhya has nothing to do with UP Assembly elections. I am visiting there as a Tourism Minister. It should not be linked to politics but is part of government’s effort to improve tourism in Ayodhya and all over the country. The visit is part of developmental agenda,” he said.

Sharma said the museum will be a part of the Ramayana Circuit for which the Centre has sanctioned Rs 225 crore, with Rs 151 crore exclusively for Ayodhya, which is the hub of the circuit.

“Ram is in the heart of millions of people. As the Tourism Minister, I have to see how Ayodhya can be developed, how Ramayana circuit can be developed from tourism point of view,” the minister said.

He said the government has identified three circuits — Ramayana Circuit, Krishna Circuit and Buddhist Circuit — to boost religious tourism.

The state government has identified a 25-acre plot for the museum which is some 15 km away from the disputed Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid complex, a source said.

Sharma will also hold a meeting with Ramayana Circuit Advisory Board during the visit. The meeting would discuss routes for connecting Ramayana-related sites in Nepal and Sri Lanka with the proposed museum.

The Union Minister would also deliberate on plans for an International Ramayana Conclave, which would be held either in Ayodhya or Chitrakoot district. The conference is likely to be attended by delegates from about 12 countries, sources said.

Sharma is likely to hold meetings with religious leaders on building the museum which would portray the epic journey of Lord Rama.

Tourism being a state subject, Sharma also sought help from Uttar Pradesh government for development of the circuits to give boost to tourism which, he said, has great potential to earn foreign exchange, employment generation and women empowernment.

Though the BJP has been insisting that Ram temple will not be an electoral plank in the UP elections to be held early next year, the proposed Ramayana museum and related activities are being seen as an attempt to keep pro-Hindutva elements in good humour.

On Dusshera, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had, in a departure from tradition, participated in the festivities in Lucknow where he started and concluded his speech with chants of “Jai Shri Ram, Jai Jai Shri Ram”.

When tourism event turned into terrorism debate

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Amid growing tension between India and Pakistan, a war of words erupted at a tourism event in the national capital, after Delhi Tourism minister Kapil Mishra asked Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti to clarify her position on Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, and Afzal Guru.Beginning his speech, Mishra asked Mufti is she considered “Burhan Wani a terrorist or not”.”Terrorism and tourism can’t go together. We can fight Pakistan, but how do we fight with people who give shelter to terrorists in J&K? It can’t be that you don’t accept Burhan Wani as a terrorist and then expect tourism to increase,” he said.Mishra then went on to asking Mufti, if she considered Afzal Guru a terrorist or not.Although even as the event organisers rushed to contain the matter and interrupted Mishra’s speech urging him not to use the space for politics, Mishra exited the event claiming that he didn’t want to share the dais with Mufti.Mufti, however, refrained from commenting on Mishra, she highlighted rising crime against women in the national capital.”Any place in the world, including Delhi, women are safest in my Kashmir. They move around in shikaras and houseboats. That’s the biggest thing my state can offer. As compared to any place in the world, including Delhi, women and girls are safest; there is no fear of getting raped in a car,” said Mufti.She added, “The biggest confidence building measure in the current scenario would be if you visit our state, it will portray your trust in us. We need you, I don’t know if you need Kashmir or not, but Kashmir needs you.”

‘We are electing people who can’t say Bharat Mata Ki Jai’: Kapil Mishra ‘ashamed’ to share stage with Mehbooba

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Hours after launching an attack at Mehbooba Mufti by saying tourism would not thrive in Kashmir as long as terrorism existed in the state, Delhi Tourism Minister Kapil Mishra on Tuesday said sharing stage with the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister would be an insult for him. ‘This is the first time I met Mehbooba Mufti. I have asked her four questions. She once said that had they knew that Burhan Wani was hiding, he could have been saved. They consider Afzal Guru as a freedom fighter. If she does not answer, the BJP must answer as to why such people are coming to power who don’t love the nation and aren’t ready to recognise terrorists as terrorists,’ Mishra told the reporters.‘We are electing such people who are not even ready to say ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai.’I do not want to share any stage with her. Sharing stage with her is an insult. I am not questioning Mehbooba Mufti’s election; I am questioning her stand on this sensitive issue,’ he added. Speaking at the launch function of the Bharat International Travel Bazaar (BITB), Mishra earlier had said, “It does not work this way that we will not call Burhan Wani a terrorist but tourism will have to flourish in India. How will that happen’ You will say Afzal Guru is not a terrorist and that he should not be hanged. How will tourism develop’ It is not going to happen.”Earlier, the Delhi Minister asked Mehbooba “if she considered Burhan Wani a terrorist.’ ‘It can’t be that you don’t accept Burhan Wani as a terrorist and then expect tourism to increase. Terrorism and tourism can’t go together. Mahesh Sharma said Kashmir is our pride, but terrorists are treated as tourists there,’ said Mishra.‘We can fight Pakistan, but how do we fight with people who give shelter to terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir,’ he added.The AAP leader underlined that it is “painful” to see that “terrorists are being treated as tourists in Kashmir.”After Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader and Delhi Tourism Minister Kapil Sharma taunted Mehbooba Mufti for not accepting Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani as a terrorist; the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister retorted that women are the safest in Kashmir. Speaking at the launch function of the Bharat International Travel Bazaar (BITB), Mehbooba said, ‘Any place in the world, including Delhi, women are safest in my Kashmir. They move around in shikaras and houseboats. That’s the biggest thing my state can offer. As compared to any place in the world, including Delhi, women and girls are safest; there is no fear of getting raped in a car.’She also said that the biggest confidence building measure would be if a visit is paid to Jammu and Kashmir.‘The biggest confidence building measure is if you visit our state, it shows that you trust us. We need you, I don’t know if you need Kashmir or not, but Kashmir needs you,’ Mehbooba said.‘People of our nation are so nice and so are the people of Jammu and Kashmir,’ she added.

Protest hits Kashmiris hard, state tourism industry suffers Rs 3000-crore loss

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Tourism sector in Kashmir has suffered a loss of around Rs 3,000 crore as the 77-day ongoing unrest in the valley resulted in sharp decline of tourists. According to preliminary estimates, tourism department officials said the key sector of state’s economy has suffered a loss of around Rs 3,000 crore due to the unrest which broke out on July 9 following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in an encounter with security forces a day earlier. “The tourism destinations and hotels both in private and government sector have been worst affected and most of the hotels are left with zero occupancy,” they said. While around three lakh tourists had visited Kashmir between July and September last year, the tourist footfall in the Valley for the corresponding period of the current year is just about a trickle, the officials said. They said a total of 10,059 tourists visited the valley between August 1 to 12 against 89,243 tourists during same period last year.The officials said several film crews who were scheduled to be in Kashmir for shooting of films during summers also changed their destination in view of the prevailing situation in the Valley.Managing Director, Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Development Corporation (JKTDC), Shahid Iqbal Chaudhary said most of the Corporation’s properties in Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Sonamarg, Yousmarg and other destinations have two-four per cent occupancy which ought to have been 90-100 per cent around this time of the year.Similarly, accommodations of Tourism Department and Tourism Development Authorities have also witnessed a shortfall of 90-95 per cent compared to last year.”Not only the tourist arrivals, most of the major infrastructure projects which were to be taken up in Kashmir under Prime Minister’s Development Plan (PMDP) have also come to a halt,” the officials said.They said Rs 400 crore were available to the department under PMDP for infrastructure development at new and existing destinations. “Under this programme, the department had formulated projects for infrastructure development at Daksum, Doodhpathri, Kokernag, Verinag, Pahalgam and Salamabad (Uri). All these projects are now in limbo because of the prevailing situation,” the official said.The people associated with tourism trade apprehend that the prevailing situation could adversely affect the tourist arrivals during the next year as well with disastrous implications for the local economy.

Tourism summit to invite investments of 700 projects of over Rs 50,000 crore from 29 states

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The tourism ministry is holding a first of its kind investors summit in Delhi to attract investments in over 700 projects from over 29 states. With a total value of over Rs 50,000 crore, the projects will be discussed with over 50 investors from countries such as China, Dubai, Hong Kong, Qatar and Singapore, etc.The summit will be inaugurated by finance minister Arun Jaitley in New Delhi on Wednesday, in the presence of tourism minister Mahesh Sharma, and Andhra Pradesh CM N Chandrababu Naidu.”There are several projects that hold a lot of potential from all across the country, and the ministry will facilitate the proposals. State ministers will be given a hour to make these presentations in front of the investors,” said tourism secretary Vinod Zutshi.Some of the potential investors who will participate in the summit include JP Morgan Chase, Hyatt, Mc Donald’s, Mariott, Shinsei Bank, Carlson Rezidor Hotels, Goldman Sachs, etc. Yes Bank, KPMG, and Earnst & Young have been roped in as hospitality partners in the summit, which will be co-organised with the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII).”In the last eight months, we have registered a tourist growth of over 10.2%, as opposed to the global average of 4.2%. While there was a growth of 15% in the inflow of foreign tourists, domestic tourism, too grew by 15%,” said Zutshi. “We have a shortage of over 2,00,000 hotel rooms annually, and we are focussing on hospitality to ensure that more budget hotels come up.”He added that the tourism ministry is in talks with the home ministry for smooth e-visas for sea ports, and that a project to develop a oceanic terminal on the lines of Terminal 3 is on the anvil.The secretary also revealed that another summit, India Global Travel Mart, on the lines of tourism summits like the annual World Travel Market held in London, will be announced soon. It is likely to happen in November. “In addition to that, the World Travel Market has announced India as a premier partner. This means that all publicity materials will encourage tourism to India,” said Zutshi.Some of the proposed projects include cruise tourism projects in Wokha in Nagaland and Sunderbans in West Bengal, ropeways in Nandi Hills in Karnataka and Loktak Lake in Manipur, medical tourism in Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh, wellness centre in Kapilavastu in Uttar Pradesh, adventure sports in Chikhaldara in Maharashtra.

Jammu and Kashmir CM Mehbooba Mufti for revival of Indo-Pak reconciliation process

Batting for revival of the Indo-Pak reconciliation process to bring about peace in Jammu and Kashmir, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Thursday said if hostilities between the two neighbours can become news, why cannot cultural bonhomie.”I wonder if hostilities can become news between the two neighbours, why can’t such cultural bonhomie,” she told reporters here. Mehbooba joined thousands of devotees from the two countries at the shrine of Baba Chamliyal near the International Border (IB) in Ramgarh sector of Samba district on the occasion of the annual Mela of the mystic saint. MP Jugal Kishore Sharma, state Industries Minister Chander Parkash Ganga and state Tourism Minister Priya Sethi accompanied the Chief Minister.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Mehbooba said given its socio-religious significance, Chamliyal could become the hub of a new movement for reconciliation in the region. “I hope our good intentions are reciprocated by our neighbour,” she said, emphasising on people-to-people contact between the two countries “to remove mistrust and create a congenial atmosphere for dialogue and reconciliation”. The PDP leader said like “siblings locked in an endless rivalry”, India and Pakistan have bickered for well over six decades.”Transforming that rivalry into a mature, productive relationship will be difficult but the consequences of continued animosity will be much worse,” said Mehbooba, adding that there is always a possibility of friendship between the two countries as both the cultures share “a fondness for each other”. She said if there is any “silver lining in the grey clouds of competition”, it is the fact that normalising relations would be a boon for business in both countries.”It may sound simplistic but building relationships is the key to peace and economic prosperity in the subcontinent in the foreseeable future,” she said, adding that some “measurable amount of friendship” will become unavoidable “very soon”. She said both the countries stand to gain if bilateral trade, economic and societal relations between the two improve and they are able to resolve their problems gradually.”This can be possible if they are innovative in their thinking and break out of the stranglehold of one-sided, emotionally charged narrative of history,” she said, adding to begin with there can be friendly exchanges in various fields such as art, environment, culture, youth affairs, sports, information and media. The Chief Minister offered chadar at the shrine. Stressing on the need to revive the Indo-Pak reconciliation process, Mehbooba said it is imperative towards bringing about peace in Jammu and Kashmir and beyond.”We are working with the government of India for opening Suchetgarh-Sialkote, Kargil-Skardu, Nowshera-Mirpur and some other roads to encourage people-to-people contact,” she said, adding that Suchetgarh has the potential of becoming “J&K’s Wagah” as was envisioned by her father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed.She said in the long run, Suchetgarh can become a trading point like Salamabad and Chakan-da-Bagh with the neighbouring country, adding that the village has been taken up for development as a border tourism destination under the Swadesh Darshan project funded by the Union Tourism Ministry.The various components of the Rs 5-crore project include restoration of old Octroi Post, construction of a multi-purpose hall, development of waterbody and landscaping of lawns to enhance the ambience of the place, she added.

e-visa boost: Foreign tourist arrivals in India zooms 293% to over 4.34 lakh in 2016 so far

“Athiti Devo Bhava”, which means guests are like our god, is the epithet of Indian culture. That’s also the catch-line of the Ministry of Tourism’s Incredible India campaign. The recently released data from the ministry shows a healthy rise in foreign tourists arriving in India.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The data points out to a remarkable rise in e-visa entries. The facility is now available for citizens arriving from 150 countries. The spike in tourist arrivals can be attributed to the thriving e-visa facility.

While alleged racial attacks, harassment and sexual assaults against foreign tourists continue to be a major worry, this, however, has not  dampened the spirits of foreign tourists.

Tourism sector is doing well on all counts. Read on to get a fair idea of the state of tourism in India.

This seems to be a game-changer for the Indian tourism industry. The Narendra Modi government introduced the e-visa facility in November 2014. This has reduced considerable paperwork and has facilitated ease of travelling for India-bound tourist. From 1,10,657 e-visa arrivals in 2015, it rose to 4,34,927 arrivals this year — a whopping 293% spike. February, in particular, sees a rise in the total number of e-visa entries — a 369% rise. The Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi followed by Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport form about two-thirds of the total e-visa arrivals.

There has been a steady rise in the total number of foreign tourist arriving in India. While 32.04 lakh foreign tourist arrived in 2014, the figure rose to about 36.36 lakh in the first five months till May 2016 — a 13.48% rise. The winter months of January and February see more foreign tourists arrivals than the summer months of April and May when there is a sharp dip.

Top 5 source countries table in FTATop 5 source countries table in FTA

It is not the US, UK or any western country that tops the chart. It is our neighbour Bangladesh. Around 14.9% of the total 36.36 lakh tourist arrivals were from Bangladesh in 2016. The US and the UK were the next top source for foreign tourists. Canada and Sri Lanka complete the list.

Tourism is a major component of India’s foreign exchange earnings. Between 2014 and 2016, there has been a healthy increase in the foreign exchange earnings through tourism. Forex earnings increases in the winter months of January and February and declines during the hot Indian summers. The month of April has also seen the biggest spike in forex earnings, a 29.6% rise between 2014-16. The month of January sees India collecting the highest amount of forex earnings.

Top 3 entry points - FTATop 3 entry points - FTA

Delhi and Mumbai, the two biggest metros of India also see the most number of foreign tourist arrivals. While the national capital tops the list, Mumbai comes second. Chennai, a key terminal for tourists arriving from south-east Asia and Sri Lanka came third. The surprise entry in this list is a nondescript location called Haridaspur. It is an inland port close to Bangladesh. It may be a major reason for the rise in Bangladeshi tourists coming to India.

The numbers released by the Ministry of Tourism is surely encouraging. With half the year remaining, there is scope for much higher growth rate for Indian tourism sector.

MTDC now a facilitator of employment scheme for youths

State’s tourism promotion body Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) has been selected as a facilitator for the ‘Hunar Se Rojgar Tak’ scheme, launched by the Ministry of Tourism, government of India, to impart valuable courses in the hospitality sector at the state level.Officials said the MTDC has associated with identified hospitality institutions in Maharashtra for the scheme, which primarily focuses on economic empowerment of the youth in the remote parts of the state.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”The programmes running under the scheme are free of cost for students. The aim is to empower the under-privileged youth of the country, ensure economic benefit through employment generation, reduce the skill gap that affects the hospitality sector,” a MTDC spokesperson said.As per the official, the scheme will target youths who are minimum Std VIII pass and in the age group of 18-28 years. It intends to generate self-employment opportunities at a local level and enable the youths to achieve a competent place in the industry with their own skills. The courses offered under the scheme will provide these students a chance to develop their skills and enhance their knowledge, making them more confident about their work.Commenting on the scheme, Valsa Nair Singh, principal secretary of cultural and tourism affairs (Maharashtra) said, “Knowledge imparted through this scheme will hone the youths’ skills and develop their work ethic, which will make them ready to face the challenges of this industry with more confidence. Hunar Se Rojgar Tak is a double benefit programme, as it improves the standard of living of these students, as well as provides a sound resource to serve in the hospitality sector.”Elaborating further, MTDC MD Dr K H Govind Raj said, “MTDC has conducted various courses in Pune, Nashik, Baramati and Nagpur regions under the Hunar Se Rozgar Tak scheme, which has benefitted thousands of students belonging to the low economic strata.”

Are Russian tourists losing their taste for India? Dwindling numbers suggest so

The trajectory of the number of foreign tourist arrivals (FTA) in India every year generally follows an upward slope. However, the comparison list of top 15 source countries for the years 2014 and 2015, released by the Ministry of Tourism, reveals an interesting change. Russia has dropped from fifth place in 2014 to 12th in 2015. While the United States continues to contribute the maximum to India’s FTA, Bangladesh, UK and Sri Lanka have also retained their respective positions on the list.

Even in the FTA list 2013, Russia stood at number five. Here’s a quick look and some of the possible reasons for this drop-off in 2015.

Goa was scrapped off the list of safe travel destinations recommended for Russian tourists, according to a Times of India report in 2015. It was one of the most popular tourist destinations for Russians. However, the number of Russian tourists to Goa has since halved in number. India was not deemed to be a promising destination for Russian travellers, according to Russian News Agency INTERFAX.

The ugly experiences faced by some Russians in recent years has further led to the decline in the number of tourists. For instance, a Russian woman was attacked with acid in Varanasi in November 2015 and suffered over 40 percent burns. Another Russian tourist was beaten up after offending the locals in the village of Mandrem, according to a report by Daily Mail.

The General Elections in India in 2014 and the change of leadership may have also been responsible for Russia’s sudden fall in the list of top 15 countries for FTA in India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s warm relationship with US president Barack Obama and expanding bilateral ties could be a reason for concern for Russia. Although Modi still decribes Russia as a “strong and reliable friend”, India is leaning more towards the US.

President Vladimir Putin’s 2014 visit to India was curtailed from three days to a single day because of the Ukraine crisis and the imposition of stricter sanctions on Russia. Following this, Putin began looking at India and China to financially help the country. According to an article in The Diplomat, India’s defence ties with Russia were a major pillar of bilateral ties.

However, in recent times, some of these deals have gone to the US, Israel or other countries which has irked Russia and hurt its economy. It lost the Indian helicopter deals and MMRCA fighter jet deals to the US and France respectively. And in what could be seen as a retributive response, Russia turned to Pakistan and signed defence agreements with India’s neighbour.

Another possible reason for the depletion in numbers of travelling Russians could also be the fact that the Russian economy is in tatters following the sanctions imposed by the US and EU in the wake of the Ukraine crisis..

There’s probably a lot of reasons for this decline in the numbers of Russian tourists to India, however the attacks on Russian tourists, the Russian economy and stagnating India-Russia relations are likely some of the major reasons for this drop in numbers.

Indian climber Subash Paul dies on Mount Everest, two others missing

An Indian climber has died on Mount Everest and two others have gone missing, expedition organisers said on Sunday, taking the death toll from the ongoing Himalayan climbing season to the world’s highest peak to five.Subash Paul, who had fallen sick and was being taken down to safety, lost his life last night while being rescued to lower camps from near the summit point, Gyanendra Shrestha, an official at Nepal’s Tourism Ministry said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>He had reached the 8,849-metre summit on Saturday but collapsed while descending the Hillary Step ice wall. He passed away in the region between Camp IV and Camp III.Paul is the fifth climber to have died while attempting to scale Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak at 8,850-meter, Shrestha said, adding that he was among four Indians who had gone missing on Saturday.Expedition officials managed to locate Sunita Hazra yesterday but two other Indian climbers remained missing.Sunita was airlifted to safety. Paresh Nath and Goutam Ghosh, who were in the team of Paul, are untraceable since Saturday.They were missing from South Cole which lies above 8,000 metre altitude and it was unlikely that they would come back alive, officials said.Meanwhile, Seema Goswami, another team member who developed frostbite, was brought to Kathmandu and is currently undergoing treatment at a hospital here. Two other Indian climbers, who were facing trouble, were rescued.During the ongoing Himalayan climbing season, five people have died so far. A Dutch and an Australian woman died of altitude sickness Friday and Saturday respectively. A Nepali guide died on Thursday after he slipped and fell 2,000 metres.Another Indian climber had died a few days ago. More than three dozen other climbers have developed frostbite or become sick near the summit in the past few days.Nearly 40 climbers including an Indian woman have developed frostbite during this Himalayan climbing season which saw about 400 mountaineers summit the world’s highest peak, officials have said.Last year, devastating earthquake caused the climbing season to be canceled and climbing attempts were largely abandoned in 2014 after an avalanche above the base camp killed 16 Sherpa guides.Last year at least 19 climbers were killed in the avalanche triggered by the earthquake.

Don’t use my picture without my permission: Mehbooba Mufti asks officials

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Tuesday asked officials not to use her pictures at government functions without her prior permission.”You should not use my pictures especially without my permission. Please do not do it. I am telling everyone that you should not use my pictures outside hospitals or any other places,” Mehbooba said.She was addressing a gathering after inaugurating a book-cum-coffee shop at Nehru Park in the middle of the famous Dal Lake in Srinagar where her pictures were put up by the Tourism and other departments and organisations. She especially asked the state Tourism Department to do away with the practice.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”The tourism department especially should not do it and not without my permission. They should not use my pictures, I do not want my picture anywhere. Please note this,” she said.The Chief Minister also holds Tourism portfolio.

No data leaked from IRCTC website, confirms Indian Railways

New Delhi: Railways on Thursday dismissed reports about the leak of email and mobile numbers from user profile data of Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) e-ticketing system and said everything is safe and secure.

There is no hacking nor any leakage of IRCTC ticketing website and everything is safe, Railway Board Member (Traffic) Mohd Jamshed told PTI.

A screenshot of the IRCTC website.

A screenshot of the IRCTC website.

He was replying to a query about reports citing cyber officials in Maharashtra regarding alleged leak of email and mobile numbers from user profile data of IRCTC e-ticketing system.

He said the security system has already been reviewed twice in the recent past.

Railways constituted a committee comprising cyber experts and vigilance officials from IRCTC and Centre for Railway Information Systems (CRIS) on 3 May to check the possible theft of data and found no such case.

“The committee has submitted the preliminary reports and there is no leakage. We are constantly monitoring it,” Jamshed said.

The e-ticketing system is managed in-house by CRIS, the IT arm of Indian Railways. The data centre is in the premises of CRIS.

According to Railways, the report of possible theft of data came to light on 2 May and a thorough investigation was carried out to ascertain its veracity.

However, no such incident was detected by technical teams of CRIS and IRCTC.

The data of e-ticketing system can be broadly divided into two categories – sensitive information like debit/credit card details, login ID, passwords, which could cause potential financial risk. PAN card detail is not required for booking e-ticket.

No sensitive data is alleged to have been leaked.

It is clarified that other data like mobile numbers and email ids is available with a large number of electronic service providing entities such as e-commerce firms and telemarketers.

Email and mobile numbers have to be shared with service providers for providing catering services, cab services, hotel bookings, SMS services etc. Till now, leak of data through none of the service providers of IRCTC has been established.

E-ticketing website has been working normally thereby eliminating any chances of unauthorized interference, IRCTC said.

CM Mehbooba Mufti to focus on developing Jammu as independent tourist destination

Allaying fears about Jammu losing focus due to direct train services to the holy town of Katra, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Friday promised to take effective steps in positioning the winter capital as an independent tourist destination.She said there is no dearth of nature destinations in Jammu and with its treasure trove of heritage sites, the city will attract a huge footfall of tourists. The chief minister made the announcement to a gathering on the banks of river Chenab after inaugurating a tourist complex here. Besides Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh, Minister of State for Tourism Priya Sethi were also present on the occasion.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Mehbooba, who also holds charge of Tourism Department, assuaged feelings of certain sections of society, especially businessmen and traders, who think Jammu may lose focus due to better connectivity with Katra and said the government will strategize and diversify its activities for which a comprehensive plan will soon be drawn up.
ALSO READ Jammu & Kashmir needs special care and attention, says CM Mehbooba Mufti”An international consultant will soon inspect Mubarak Mandi Heritage Complex and chalk out a strategy so that we restore it to its pristine glory. Similarly, we will remove bottlenecks in Jammu Ropeway Project which will provide a huge fillip to tourism sector here,” she said. She said the state will have to learn from Rajasthan to conserve its heritage and culture assets. Mehbooba said she had studied at Jammu but never got an opportunity to explore the place. “On my first visit last week, I was simply riveted by the grandeur and majestic beauty of Mubarak Mandi Heritage Complex. We cannot allow it to be used as a parking place,” she said.
ALSO READ Mehbooba Mufti meets RBI Dy Guv, bats for priority sector lendingShe said Tourism and Culture Departments together will identify the potential sites for tourism promotion in Jammu region. On infrastructure upgrade, the chief minister mentioned Ranjit Sagar Dam in Basoli, Jammu Ropeway at Bahu Fort, Akhnoor Fort, Mughal Sarais in Rajouri, Patnitop, Surinsar, Mansar, Jai in Bhaderwah, Warwan in Kishtwar and Mantalai in Udhampur as places where all ongoing projects will be fast- tracked. She said this will position Jammu as an emerging destination for inbound as well as foreign visitors. Referring to her recent visit to border areas of Suchetgarh and Baba Chamliyal, Mehbooba said Jammu can emulate Wagah’s success in border tourism. She said she will take up with the Centre the issue of starting a march-past on this side which can become a major attraction for tourists. “I hope fresh thaw between India and Pakistan will enable us to promote border tourism on a larger scale,” she said.
ALSO READ Jammu and Kashmir govt formation: Mehbooba Mufti meets Amit ShahOn developing Akhnoor as a cultural and heritage centre, Mehbooba suggested landscaping the scattered patches around Chenab riverfront by planting flowers. She also asked Secretary Tourism to highlight the heritage value of Jia Potha and Ambaran in Akhnoor so that art and culture aficionados make a beeline for the place. “Devise weekend packages so that this place becomes a source of attraction for tourists, including Shiv Khori-bound pilgrims who travel on the stretch in large numbers,” she said and directed Tourism Department to provide add-on facilities like water-sports for the amusement of visitors.In his address, the Deputy Chief Minister credited the vision of former Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed in promoting Jammu as a major travel destination.Constructed at a cost of Rs 4.34 crore, the tourist complex has all modern facilities like suites, banquet hall and restaurants. Earlier, the Chief Minister went around the complex and saw the facilities set up for the visiting tourists.Jia Potha, which has heritage significance, is known as a coronation place for Maharaja Hari Singh and it has some remnants of Buddhist scriptures. Walkways have also been constructed towards the riverfront.

If US, Iran can end hostilities, why not India, Pakistan: Mehbooba Mufti

Pitching strongly for Indo-Pak reconciliation, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Saturday said India and Pakistan should begin a new era of peace and prosperity in the region similar to how the US and Iran recently ended hostilities and stitched a new phase of engagement.”If US and Iran can join hands, I see no reason why India and Pakistan cannot come together to restore stability and begin a new era of peace and prosperity in the region,” Mehbooba said while interacting with media-persons on the sidelines of her marathon tour in Jammu on Saturday.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Chief Minister invoked the legacy of former Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, by sending a strong message of peace and reconciliation to both India and Pakistan. She cited the example of US and Iran, two sworn enemies, who have recently ended hostilities and stitched a new phase of engagement.Giving wings to her father s dream of making Suchetgarh JK s Wagah, the Chief Minister said she will be delighted if the border town is promoted as a people-to-people meeting point with Sialkot, in Pakistan, across the International Border (IB).She urged media to highlight the cultural camaraderie that exists between the people of India and Pakistan. “I wonder if hostilities can become news between the two neighbours, why can’t cultural bonhomie,” she asked, while touring border areas of Suchetgarh and shrine of Baba Chamliyal, revered by people on both sides of the IB.Mehbooba described as most unfortunate the recent incident at Handwara, but hoped that peace will be firmly entrenched in the valley, where years of turbulence has brought untold miseries upon the people.Favouring more transit points for people-to-people contact, the Chief Minister said cultural affinity across the two regions is too strong to resist. “I hope our good intentions are reciprocated by our neighbour,” she added.The Chief Minister, who also holds the charge of the Tourism Department, said Jammu has all the makings of an ideal tourist destination, provided the right strategy is framed to showcase Mubarak Mandi Heritage Complex in the City of Temples, Mughal Sarais in Rajouri, Ranjit Sagar Dam in Basohli, border tourism in Suchetgarh and R S Pura and nature destinations like Patnitop, Bhadarwah and Warwan valley. “I promise to take tourism to all corners of Jammu, for which a proposal for a separate Tourist Circuit will be shortly finalized,” she stated.

Have not been formally approached for Incredible India, says Amitabh Bachchan

Mumbai/New Delhi: Amitabh Bachchan on Tuesday sought to put a lid on speculation that government is having second thoughts on engaging him for ‘Incredible India’ campaign after his name appeared in Panama paper leaks, saying he has not been “formally” approached for the task.

“There have been queries from the media regarding my being Brand Ambassador for ‘Atulya Bharat’ (Incredible India). I wish to state that I have not been formally approached for this position…The speculation of the media regarding its discontinuance is, therefore, not relevant as far as I am concerned,” Bachchan, 73, said in a statement.

His clarification came following reports that his name has been “put on hold for the brand ambassador’s role” after figuring in Panama papers, according to Tourism Ministry sources.

Amitabh Bachchan. File photo. IBNLiveAmitabh Bachchan. File photo. IBNLive

Amitabh Bachchan. File photo. IBNLive

“His name would be considered only if he comes clean on the issue,” they added.

Bachchan’s name figured among 500 Indian individuals and entities who owned firms and accounts in offshore tax havens in the leaked documents of Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca. He has already denied any knowledge of the offshore firms, saying his name could have been misused.

“On the Panama disclosures, I wish to state that queries continue to be sent to me by the media. I would humbly request them to kindly direct these to the Government of India (GOI) where I, as a law abiding citizen have already sent, and shall continue to send, my responses.

“I stand by my earlier statement on the ‘misuse of my name’ in the matter and in any event the press reports do not disclose any illegal act committed by me,” he stated.

Bachchan and actress Priyanka Chopra were the frontrunners for the publicity of the campaign aimed at promoting India as a favourite tourist destination abroad after popular actor Aamir Khan ceased to be its brand ambassador following his intolerance remarks.

Panama Papers: Amitabh Bachchan denies being formally approached for ‘Incredible India’

After reports on Monday came out stating the decision to name Amitabh Bachchan as the brand ambassador of Incredible India has been put on hold, the actor has released a statement denying being even approached for the post. Amitabh Bachcan I wish to state that I have not been formally approached for this position (Brand Ambassador for ‘Incredible India’). The speculation of the media regarding its discontinuance is, therefore, not relevant as far as I am concernedOn Monday, ANI reported stating sources that the decision will be taken by the government only after Amitabh was given a clean chit in the Panama Papers scandal. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Leaks from the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca have embarrassed several world leaders and shone a spotlight on the shadowy world of offshore companies by revealing the financial arrangements of prominent figures. Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson stepped down earlier this month after documents linked him to an offshore company.Soon after the leaked documents were published, Bachchan had said his name might have been “misused”.”I do not know any of the companies referred to by Indian Express – Sea Bulk Shipping Company Ltd, Lady Shipping Ltd, Treasure Shipping Ltd, and Tramp Shipping Ltd. I have never been a director of any of the above stated companies. It is possible that my name has been misused,” he had said in a statement.Bachchan was said to be Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first choice as brand ambassador of the mega publicity campaign. The superstar became the brand ambassador for Gujarat Tourism when Modi was the state’s Chief Minister. Bachchan is also the ambassador for Maharashtra’s ‘Save Tiger’ project.Though it was believed that Aamir Khan was eased out of the Incredible India campaign in January after being associated with it for several years for his remarks on intolerance, the Tourism Ministry had clarified that he was not hired by the government for it and that the contract with the advertising agency which engaged him had expired. (With PTI Inputs)

Centre forms task force to develop cruise tourism in India

In order to boost cruise tourism along the vast coast, including that in financial capital Mumbai, Central government has instituted a task force apart from planning several incentive schemes to turn around the fate of this industry in India. The announcement was made during a maritime event held in Goregaon on Friday.The task force will help in giving all the required permissions for landing of travellers at a port in India, in a quick manner, as the task force will have members who will be top officials from different government agencies under one platform.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Since the tourists visiting the city in a cruise ship spend only about a day, it become even more important that least time is taken to take them out of the port to the land,” said Valsa Nair, principal secretary (Tourism and culture) Maharashtra government.The task force which has top officials from different departments, claims to be giving further push to develop infrastructure, simplifying procedures, increasing marketing and communication activities, and incentives and commissions around the cruise tourism.Further, in order to make the cruise tourism more mainstream, the government is apparently also working on to include vacations spent on cruise ships eligible for seeking Leave Travel Concession (LTC), where the government employees get reimbursed for the travelling cost.”We are looking at including cruise tours under the LTC scheme. Employees can go on cruise ships at government expense,” joint secretary in the ministry of tourism Suman Billa said during a session on tourism at the Maritime India Summit on Friday. He said such a move will shore up the sagging numbers of tourists opting for cruise tours and will be a huge boost for the sector.According to the figures available with government, in the past five years between FY10 and FY14, there has been a 14 per cent decline in the number of tourists opting for cruise tours in the country —a trend the government wants to reverse.In FY10, there were 55,000 domestic and 1.35 lakh foreign tourists who boarded cruise ships, which dropped to 45,000 and 70,000, respectively, in FY14. Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma, who was among the speakers at the event, said that presently only 0.40 per cent of the tourists in India opt for cruise tours, while India’s share in the global cruise tourism market is 0.68 per cent. The government is targeting to take this up to 1 per cent by 2020.The task force which has top officials from different departments of the government, claims to be giving further push to develop infrastructure, simplifying procedures, increasing marketing and communication activities, and incentives and commissions around the cruise tourism. —With Agency inputs

Barring Maharajas’ Express, India’s luxury trains face low occupancy

Incredible India’s luxury trains or super luxury cruise trains aimed at luring the international tourists with deep pockets are running into serious trouble.

The Economic Times reported last week that the Palace on Wheels had cancelled a trip for the first time in 34 years. It had no bookings in one week and only 18 bookings the week prior to that.

The Indian Railways, first prestigious luxury train, Palace on Wheels, is not the only one facing low occupancy problems. Three other luxury trains are also facing low occupancy.

The Indian Express reported in December last year, that the Royal Rajasthan on Wheels, had to cancel two consecutive trips, because of no bookings, despite it being peak tourist season.

The Palace on Wheels train. Image courtesy: Palace on Wheels website.

The Palace on Wheels train. Image courtesy: Palace on Wheels website.

Occupancy levels came down from 35 to 40 percent in these trains in 2014-2015, from nearly 60 percent and above in 2011-2012. This is despite the number of trips being cut down in some of these trains.

However, the silver lining in the cloud, is the Maharajas’ Express, the only luxury train among the five luxury trains to actually see a steady increase from 42 percent to 57 percent in tourists from 2011-2012 to 2014-2015. The most expensive of the five trains, the Maharajas’ Express runs on five circuits covering more than 12 destinations across North-West and Central India.

The Maharaja’s Express has also been winning several travel awards steadily over the years, since 2011, which probably has ensured its flagship status among the luxury trains. The Business Line reported that the New World Wealth survey had ranked the Maharajas’ Express fourth on the list as per preferences of the super-rich, while Eastern and Oriental Express (Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand) was rated the best globally. There is also a request from Mexico to run the Maharajas’ Express in Latin America.

The Indian Railways describes its five luxury trains as, “India by rail offers a fascinating odyssey through time and space, cultures and history offering glimpses of unity amidst diversity, shrouded in enchanting mystery, colours that capture the heart while soothing the soul.”

Today, the Indian Railway stands as one of the largest and busiest rail networks in the world. With a workforce of 1.5 million, it is the single largest employer in the world. “No one offers the multi-dimensional magic of the real India more excitingly than the Indian Railways – the second largest railway system in the world covering around 65,000 km of track laid across around 8,000 stations, running around 19,000 trains every day. The convenient, well-connected routes offer passengers hassle-free tours to some of the most exotic places in the world,” states the website.

The five luxury trains, which were created using the plush coaches of erstwhile princes, traverse the length and breadth of the country during the night, leaving the day free for tourists to explore the tourist destination. All the luxury trains were launched with the hope of luring the high-end international tourists. The tariff in these trains, ranges from 500 USD per person per night (Rs 30,000 roughly) to 1800 USD per person per night (Rs 108,000 roughly) depending on the route, season and train.

Among the five luxury trains, The Palace on Wheels was the first luxury train to be launched some three decades ago and is run by the Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation (RTDC). Royal Rajasthan on Wheels came in later and is also run by RTDC. Both the trains have similar routes, starting from New Delhi, covering mainly Rajasthan and Agra.

Deccan Odyssey is run by the Maharashtra Tourism Development Board targeting destinations in Maharashtra and Gujarat and Rajasthan.

The Golden Chariot is run by the Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation is probably the only luxury train that runs purely in the south – mainly Karnataka destinations and Goa.

All the trains have central air conditioning, intercom, TV, Wi-Fi, conferencing facilities, pantry, and lounge, piped in music, money exchange and credit card facility, spas, conferencing facilities, specialty restaurants serving exotic Indian food, well stocked bar, and round the clock attendants. The trains have about 14 to 19 coaches, lined with wall to wall carpeting and princely décor reminiscent of Indian royalty.

So what ails the Indian Railways prestigious luxury trains? Some of the reasons range from:

• Railway tourism has lost its appeal in the last few years with air fares becoming cheaper. The many popular online travel portals have great deals and offers and attractive group packages for tourists.

• In a static market, the luxury trains have ended up competing with each other for a slice of the same pie, as many routes and destinations overlap.

• Political and economic unrest and terrorist attacks abroad has kept away the international tourist.

• Online booking was not available for a while for tourists from their home countries. It was withdrawn after a few cases of misuse of credit cards came to light.

• There are also complaints from the unions that the tourism boards were not interested in running the luxury trains and were looking for a way out.

• These luxury trains are also weighed down with high haulage charges of over Rs 80 crore in the last five years alone.

So what is being done or needs to be done to bring India’s prestigious luxury trains back on track?

Taking cognizance of the dipping occupancy rates, the tourism and railway ministries are already working together on many initiatives, including offering INR rates to international traveler and launching aggressive promotion of the luxury trains through tourism ministry’s overseas offices.

The Financial Express reported on Thursday that international travelers will soon be allowed to book Indian Railways train tickets online for domestic travel in India from their own countries, using their credit or debit cards.

What the railways and the different tourism boards running these trains need to also do is to change the perception among domestic tourists that these luxury trains are too expensive and meant only for international tourists.

Prices need to be slashed so as to target the middle class tourists, which is a huge market. In fact, the KSTDC has already gone ahead and slashed prices of the Golden Chariot. It has plans to increase its frequency and introduce a number of short hauls, reports The Deccan Herald. The KSTDC is also in talks with banks to offer tickets on easy installments and target the corporate customers, with conferences and corporate trips.

The tourism boards should also be targeting domestic tourists with disposable incomes. Given the terrorism threat in some countries abroad, domestic luxury tourists can be enticed to look at the luxury trains as a classy tourist option.

The Indian railways needs to reduce the high haulage charges. Initially, these were based on profit sharing and the tourist season, but in the last three years, fixed haulage charges have been levied on the state tourism boards by the Railways.

Online travel portals not only put paid to physical travel agents, they also gave the power back to the tourists to plan their own packages. The railways must look at putting up the luxury trains on these portals. Although several railway packages, including the semi-luxury trains like the Desert circuit and Heritage circuit, are available on popular travel portals, like and the luxury trains, however, are not listed here.

And finally learn from what went right for the Maharajas’ Express. Run exclusively by the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Ltd (IRCTC) this Public Sector Enterprise under the Ministry of Railways is also a mini Ratna and obviously knows it job.

So, should all the other luxury trains be handed over to the IRCTC to run? Perhaps that is what will work best for these luxury trains.

Articles used by APJ Abdul Kalam to be placed for public view in Delhi

Various articles used by former president Dr Abdul Kalam, including 1,000 books, would be collected from his house by Delhi Tourism Minister Kapil Mishra and taken to the national capital to be placed for public view from July 21, his grandson Salim said on Tuesday.”Kapil Mishra, Delhi Tourism Minister will collect the things used by Kalam from his house here and these will be placed at Sarojini Nagar in New Delhi for public view from July 21″ he said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Salim told PTI that Mishra would morning visit Paikarumbu on Wednesday, where Kalam is buried, from where he would go to Kalam’s house at around 9.30 AM to collect the items, including 1,000 books and various clothes worn by him. Kapil Mishra too had taken to twitter to share the news:

Centre to release 50 declassified files on Netaji today

The Centre will release the second batch of fifty declassified files relating to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose in the national capital on Tuesday.The documents consist of ten each files from the Prime Minister’s Office and Home Ministry and 30 files from Ministry of External Affairs pertaining to the period 1956 to 2009.Minister of State for Culture and Tourism (independent charge) and Civil Aviation, Mahesh Sharma will release these files online on web portal<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In January, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had put the first lot of 100 files in the public domain on the occasion of the 119th birth anniversary of Netaji.The present release of files will further meet the continued public demand to access them and it will also facilitate scholars to carry out further research on the doyen of the freedom movement.

Can gender parity be achieved through tourism?

Tourism has a benign face of being merely an exchange between people travelling to each other’s lands. But given the world order, this is not an equal exchange. Everyone, the world over, does not have equal possibilities of travel and of spending on travel. There are gender, race, caste and class dynamics at play. Women working in the tourism sector, be they first world women in third world countries or women from third world countries itself, have experiences different from men working in the sector. Again, within women, the experiences of vulnerability of First World women as women in Third World countries, even where they work in lead positions, are different from those of women engaged in contract housekeeping or reception work in the tourism sector. Also, women from host countries and women tourists have different experiences from their male counterparts. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>So, can Gender Parity 50:50 be achieved through tourism? ‘Planet 50:50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality’ was the theme for 2016 Women’s Day. According to the UN, this theme was conceptualised to consider how to accelerate the 2030 Agenda, with 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which world leaders adopted in September 2015 at a UN Summit, and which are sought to be reached through 169 targets. Take this 2030 agenda which cites tourism as the avenue for the attainment of sustainable development goals and mix it with the UN Declaration of 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, and you have an insipid concoction in which you neither get the taste of a people-centric tourism nor do you get the taste of women’s rights or gender parity.Goa has widely been known as a tourist paradise for a long time. Being a Goan based in Goa, one is, in a sense, at a good vantage point from which to decipher what these themes of Women’s Day 2030 Agenda and of the 2017 International year, can signify. This means that one may want to look at what gender parity has been achieved so far through the State’s tourism policy and the practices of the dominant tourism industry.A fruit vendor at the local market in Old Goa. AFPOne would like to go back to about two and a half decades ago when a five-star hotel with a tie up with a multinational chain was holding up its woman director as a sign of gender parity. They had a woman director at a time when it was not yet compulsory as it is now under the Company Act to have at least one woman director on the Board. She was not a paper director, as in some companies where women family members are introduced as directors, to keep the stranglehold of the male patriarchs of the family on the company. But this had meant nothing in terms of parity in staff distribution in various other positions. The housekeeping department was flooded with women while the chef and kitchen were primarily male. On the other hand, civil society groups that were protesting the denial of people’s access to the beach by this five-star hotel were heard mumbling about stripping the powerful woman director naked as a symbol of their protest. There wasn’t gender parity in this either. Clearly, they were taking advantage of a certain vulnerability she had as a woman. Yet, the groups were also raising some gender concerns, even if they were not styled as such. For instance, the women residents of the locality and its neighbourhood were talking about being denied the opportunity of learning how to swim at this quiet, shallow beach. Some were talking of being denied access to spaces from which to derive their livelihoods.Thus, it wasn’t an all sides clear picture then, and this picture hasn’t changed substantially now. Women’s fight for gender parity is caught in crossfires precisely such as this. It isn’t simply an issue of 50:50. What would 50:50 be in a situation where all the resources of the community are plundered by mega-corporates leaving nothing to be shared/divided 50:50? What would 50:50 share in housework be where both men and women have to put in long hours of work for dismal salaries that cannot even enable them to keep a domestic help or have socialised housework amenities? What would 50:50 be for the domestic help who does not even get a day off each week? These are the burning questions we perforce need to ask when we talk of 50:50. It cannot be a superficial talk of bland equality.The struggle for matrimonial property is being waged in the country. There, of course, has to be gender parity with matrimonial property. But what happens if a couple has nothing to divide into half? If all the properties they tilled and tenanted have been snatched by subtle corrupt processes – processes that have been provided a lot of leeway in the administrative justice system? If all the properties they tilled or tenanted have been perforce acquired in the name of development for some measly government compensation and are now being utilised for some version or the other of tourism? Be it golf courses, be it DefExpo? (Defexpo India is a biennial Land, Naval and Internal Homeland Security Systems Exhibition, the eighth edition of which is scheduled to be held at Quitol, South Goa end March 2015, even as there are designs to make it a permanent destination for the Expo)Similarly, the fight for parity at the workplace is raging in the country. But this is a fight which cannot be limited to fighting for 50:50. It is about establishing systems that will ensure that women are not discriminated against or harassed at the workplace. A fight against discrimination that happens in ways that are subtle. So 50:50 must mean that women must have the possibilities of occupying 50% of every position in an establishment. How then can the Sustainable Development Goal No. 8, namely, “promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all” be said to be achieved, with a target to “devise and implement policies to promote sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture and products?”A stall near Anjuna beach in Goa. AFPThe UN World Tourism Organisation website itself says that women tend to be concentrated in the lowest paid and lowest status jobs in tourism, and further that women perform a large amount of unpaid work in family tourism businesses. While the case studies in the UN World Tourism Organisation’s ‘Global Report on Women in Tourism 2010’ primarily relate to women entrepreneurs, its recommendation on women in tourism employment speaks a thousand words. The Report recommends increased awareness of the important economic role that women play in the tourism industry, the strengthening of legal protection for women in tourism employment; such protections include minimum wage regulations and equal pay laws, improvement of maternity leave requirements, flexible hours, work-from-home options, and arrangements of child-care. None of these recommendations are any different from those for corporate units with regard to any industry that functions under the benign name of development and providing employment. This is stated to flag that what goes on in tourism employment is often masked under the glamorous face of tourism.What also tends to get overlooked is that there is an increasing contractualisation of labour and labour laws including maternity benefits and flexi-timings cannot get enforced for contract labour. So even if a large number of women are ‘employed’ in tourism, the question is how. Can there be gender parity in the face of despair and inequality in the very polity and economy, where even hard won labour laws are taking a back seat, with the increasing contractualisation of labour?Studies in Goa have indicated that women entrepreneurs who imagined they would benefit from the tourism industry express anguish that the dominant players, such as multinational hotel chains, which have a powerful alliance with Governments anywhere, try to push small and medium enterprises, generally run by women, out of business. This they do by setting up their own businesses such as the beauty parlours, within the premises’ precincts and making that part of the charter tourism package.Also, talk of investment in cultural tourism must look at gender parity. We cannot have the Sustainable Development Goal of Gender Equality being outdone by any of the other Sustainable Development Goals or vice-versa. For instance, we cannot have the Sustainable Development Goal No. 12 of ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns be met by a target where sustainable tourism is automatically presumed to be a driver for job creation and promotion of local culture and products. Considering that the goal is sought to be attained on the backs of women with women and their living culture being commercialised and commodified, thereby robbing women, including indigenous women of their moorings. There are ample examples again in Goa. A cultural colour throwing exercise at Carnival with satirical plays as an expression of protest and gay abandon of established norms, got quickly converted for tourism into a cultural floats bonanza coupled with an image of Goan women being available. This year, it even metamorphosed into a dress code dictated non dissenting expression Carnival parade.Therefore, the hard questions indeed need to be asked, about decent work in tourism, trade opportunities in tourism, ecotourism, cultural tourism, and which women exactly benefit from this tourism. All this, before jumping on to the bandwagon of tourism industry for being the solution for sustainable development and offering gender parity 50:50.

MIT’s Dalai Lama Centre for Ethics and Transformative Values to open in Hyderabad

The renowned Dalai Lama Centre for Ethics and Transformative Values which is based at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, is set to open its South Asia Centre in Hyderabad.The director of the Dalai Lama Centre for Ethics and Transformative Values Tenzin Priyadarshini informed the Telangana IT Minister K.T.Rama Rao and Tourism Minister A Chandulal about this development reports The Hindu. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The reason why Hyderabad was chosen was because of the infrastructure and other facilities adds the report.Telangana IT Minister K T Rama Rao thanked Tenzin Priyadarshini for this decision and also spoke about Telangana’s connection with Buddhism. He reportedly said Telangana was the third biggest state in India to have historic Buddhist places of tourism like Nagarjunasagar which was a renowned centre for Buddhism. The Minister said he would discuss with the Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao what support the government could extend for setting up the Dalai Lama Centre for Ethics and Transformative Values.The daily adds that K T Rama Rao said that the government would give five acres of land for the centre. He also said an invitation would be extended to the Dalai Lama to lay the foundation for the Buddha Vanam project in Hyderabad.

Talks with Pakistan won’t yield results if terrorism not controlled: Farooq Abdullah

There will be no benefit of India’s bilateral talks with Pakistan if terror attacks continues from across the border, former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister and NC patron Farooq Abdullah said on Saturday. “If you cannot control terrorism, how can we have better relations? How can there be good relations if you continue to send men to kill people (here)? You have seen what has happened in Pampore. “(Prime Minister Narendra) Modiji has good relationship with the Prime Minister of Pakistan and we hope that this friendship will continue further and there will be further improvement in Indo-Pak relations… There will be no benefit of talks if terrorism continues. The first duty is to stop terrorism,” Abdullah said. He was asked whether India-Pakistan cricket match will give better fillip to relations between the two countries. “We hope that the two leaders will work in that direction (building peace and friendship by stopping terrorism”, he said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Let the friendship go to hell… You need first to control terrorism. In terror attacks, poor people are getting killed. Tourism sector is taking a hit. If terrorism continues, the tourism sector will be badly affected and the people connected with it will face losses,” he said. On the charge that polarisation is growing during the Modi government, he said, “It takes two to clap. If Congress strengthens itself and also the secular forces, they can control it. If they (Congress) resort to the statements only and do not unite all parties against this, then how can they stop it (polarisation).””It is wrong to blame BJP and RSS only, we too have faults. It is because of those faults that they get encouraged. Why don’t we address these mistakes, we should find out where we have done mistakes due to which they have got encouraged,” he said. Asked why elections were not announced following failure of PDP and BJP to form the government after the death of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, he said “please ask this question to them.They have majority members, just go and ask them. We are demanding dissolution of the Assembly and going back to the people. If they have the courage to do that, they should but they don’t have the courage to do it.”He alleged the central food security legislation was not in favour of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.Meanwhile, Abdullah today batted for bigger role for the youth in political landscape in the state. “National Conference has always provided a huge political space to the youth with an avowed objective of channelising their energies in a productive manner, so as to realise the vision of Sher-e-Kashmir Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah in making Jammu and Kashmir a peaceful and vibrant state where opportunities of progress and to grow are available to all, irrespective of region, religion or caste,” he said.He was addressing the office-bearers of Youth National Conference, Jammu Province at Sher-e-Kashmir Bhavan here. He exhorted the youth leaders to fan out in their areas and acquaint people about the damage caused to unique social fabric of the state by the divisive politics perpetrated by myopic politicians just for their petty political interests.

Jat quota row intensifies: Protesters vandalise railway station, burn train engine

Bharatpur: A mob on Tuesday vandalised a railway station and set ablaze a goods train engine in the district where normal life remained affected for the second consecutive day due to the Jat quota stir.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Police fired in the air and lobbed tear gas shells to disperse mobs at two places.

“Firing in the air was done at two places including one at Ucchain area on National Highway 11 where a large number of protesters had gathered.

“An engine of a stranded goods train was set on fire and damaged by the protesters near Helak station whereas Paprera railway station was also vandalised in a separate incident,” IG Bharatpur Alok Vashistha said.

He said that police contingents were rushed to different places in the district to disperse the agitators.

DGP Manoj Bhatt said in Jaipur that the situation is under control in Bharatpur.

Bharatpur district collector Ravi Jain said that the agitators burnt the ticket counter and station master’s cabin at Paprera railway station and looted around Rs 5000 from the ticket counter.

Prohibitory orders under Section 144 CrPC were imposed by the collector yesterday after the members of the Jat community extended their support to the ongoing reservation stir in Haryana and blocked highways and railway in the district.

State Social Justice Minister Arun Chaturvedi and Tourism Minister Krishnendra Kaur had held a meeting with the leaders of the agitators last night but it failed to yield any results.

Normal life in the district remained affected due to the agitation and police and district administration officials are monitoring the situation.


Valentine’s Day against Indian culture: Banaras Hindu University VC

“The students may celebrate Valentine Day if they want to, but not on the campus,” BHU V-C Prof GC Tripathi told reporters on Thursday. “Any celebration which misguides the youth from their basic culture and values, is best avoided,” he asserted.
While chief minister Akhilesh Yadav has decided to celebrate Valentine’s Day (February 14) as “Tourism Day” in Uttar Pradesh, his point of view doesn’t seem to have been appreciated by authorities at the Lucknow University and the Banaras Hindu University (BHU). The two varsities have prohibited any kind of celebration on this occasion cherished by youngsters at large.”The students may celebrate Valentine Day if they want to, but not on the campus,” BHU V-C Prof GC Tripathi told reporters on Thursday. “Any celebration which misguides the youth from their basic culture and values, is best avoided,” he asserted.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A senior faculty at BHU said the V-C was perhaps “playing safe” in view of the university’s 100th year celebrations which would be attended by PM Narendra Modi and HRD Minister Smriti Irani.The Lucknow University (LU) has also announced that no such celebration would be allowed on the campus.However, already voices of disagreement are being heard on this count. “It’s not advisable for any university to get into cultural policing,” says former LU V-C Prof Roop Rekha Verma. “As long as discipline and order is maintained on the campus, and there is no revelry which disturbs the atmosphere or routine of the institution there’s nothing wrong,” says Prof Ramesh Dixit of LU’s Political Science department.Young Samajwadi Party leader Sunil Singh Yadav said students should not be prevented from celebrating Valentine’s Day as long as it promotes friendship and camaraderie. He lauded the UP CM’s initiative to mark the occasion as UP Tourism Day. “This would also help restrain the ‘Hindutva’ fanatics who insult students on this day in the name of culture,” he added.

Tanzanian woman assaulted: Incidents like these affect tourism, says Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma

Expressing concern over the alleged assault on and stripping of a Tanzanian woman in Bengaluru, Union Tourism and Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma on Thursday said such incidents affect the tourism industry.”Law and order is a state subject but if something like this happens to any tourist, particularly a foreigner and lady traveller, we fall behind from the tourist point of view,” Sharma told reporters. He also called for “special efforts” toward safety of tourists, particularly foreigners and ladies.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A Tanzanian woman student was allegedly beaten up and stripped by a mob in a case of “mistaken identity” after a woman was mowed down by a car in Bengaluru.Meanwhile, on a query on Sabarimala temple in Kerala, the Minister said the government is “considering highly” to put it in PRASAD scheme which is meant for developing pilgrimage centres.As many as 13 cities — namely Ajmer, Amritsar, Amravati, Dwarka, Gaya, Kamakhaya, Kanchipuram, Kedarnath, Mathura, Patna, Puri, Varanasi and Velankanni — have been identified for development under Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spirituality Augmentation Drive (PRASAD) by the Ministry of Tourism.

Congress asks PM Modi to take action against Amitabh Kant for ‘irresponsible’ statement against Aamir Khan

Congress deputy chief whip in the Lok Sabha, K C Venugopal on Monday termed as “totally irresponsible” senior IAS officer Amitabh Kant’s statement on actor Aamir Khan and urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take action against the official for “violating” service rules.Days after Kant, the newly appointed NITI Aayog CEO, made a statement defending Khan’s exit from the ‘Incredible India’ campaign, Venugopal said the officer “stooped to such a level to appease his political masters who have granted him a new post in the NITI Aayog.” Kant, a Kerala cadre officer, is currently posted as the secretary of Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”I urge the Prime Minister to take action against the officer for violating central government’s service rules. As a serving bureaucrat, he has no right to join a debate on a controversial issue and make public statements. His statements against Khan is totally irresponsible,” the former Union Minister said here.Kant was referring to Aamir Khan s remarks last November when he had said there were rising instances of “intolerance” in India and his wife even asked if they should move out of the country as “she feared for the safety of their children”. Kant had said the actor “damaged” the brand India while being the brand ambassador of the ‘Incredible India’ campaign.Kant, who had been a key driver of the ‘Incredible India’ campaign as Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, had said that by terming India “intolerant”, Khan had worked against his role as the brand ambassador.”If the brand ambassador says India is intolerant, he surely is not working as brand ambassador,” Kant had said.”The brand ambassador must be the best brand ambassador for promoting and marketing India. He cannot be the destroyer of the brand.” Khan had late last year stirred a controversy after he expressed “alarm and despondency” over rising instances of “intolerance” in India.

Mawlynnong, ‘India’s cleanest village’, battles tourist influx as it tries to cling to its serenity

Mawlynnong: In the tiny hamlet of Mawlynnong in India’s far north east, plastic is banned and spotless paths are lined with flowers — but its reputation as Asia’s cleanest village has proved a mixed blessing.

Until 2003 no tourists visited the remote community of 500 inhabitants high in the mountains of Meghalaya state, which had no roads and was accessible only by foot.

Home to the Khasi tribal people, Mawlynnong is famous for being a rare matrilineal society, where property and wealth are passed on from the mother to her youngest daughter and children take their mother’s surname.

In recent years the village has become known for another reason — its exceptional cleanliness, far removed from the noise and dirt of India’s big cities.

Indian Khasi tribal villagers walk past a bamboo dustbin placed beside a road in Mawlynnong. Meghalaya. AFPIndian Khasi tribal villagers walk past a bamboo dustbin placed beside a road in Mawlynnong. Meghalaya. AFP

Indian Khasi tribal villagers walk past a bamboo dustbin placed beside a road in Mawlynnong. Meghalaya. AFP

Bamboo dustbins stand at every corner, volunteers sweep the streets at regular intervals and large signs order visitors to throw away plastic packaging: littering is sternly frowned upon.

“We clean every day because our grandparents and our ancestors have taught us how to clean the village and the surrounding area, because it’s good for our health,” said Baniar Mawroh, a teenager sitting at the entrance of her small but gleaming family home.

After the village built its first road 12 years ago, a journalist from Discover India travel magazine wrote a now-infamous article naming it the cleanest village in Asia.

The trickle of tourists became a flood, with visitors now reaching 250 a day in high season, swelling the village’s population by 50 percent.
But the accolades have brought several downsides.

“Now there is noise pollution. I’ve talked to the village council which has written to the government to build a new parking lot further away.” said Rishot Khongthohrem, 51, a guesthouse owner.

Deepak Laloo, a former official of the Meghalaya Tourism Development Forum, advised the village in the early stages of its tourism development but fears for the impact of the vistor influx.

“There’s no more privacy. A woman is washing her clothes, she’s being photographed,” he said.

“That social bond which binds the village together is disintegrating,” he said.

Cholera outbreak

Mawlynnong’s concern for hygiene emerged about 130 years ago when an outbreak of cholera struck. With no medical facilities in the village, cleanliness was seen as vital to prevent the spread of disease.

“Christian missionaries told our ancestors: you can protect yourself from the plague (cholera) only if you maintain good hygiene, be it at home, with food, on your land, in the village, or for your body,” Khongthohrem said.

Mawlynnong maintained its fastidious habits and has gone on to other achievements, eradicating open defecation — prevalent across much of rural India — with toilets for each of its approximately 95 households.

The village has even been hailed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in an autumn radio address imploring Indians to erase the poor national image of rubbish-strewn highways and monuments under his Clean India campaign.

“I was amazed to know that there is such a village in remote north-east, Meghalaya which is so passionately carrying the mission of cleanliness for years,” he said.

While the pristine village is proud of its achievements, some believe it must limit visitor numbers to protect the wellbeing of its inhabitants.

“They must learn to regulate the number of tourists and to say no at some point,” tourism expert Laloo said.


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