Expert advice welcome, but we lack right action on the ground!
The Jammu and Kashmir Government recently set up a Tourism Advisory Board. Any initiative to develop and promote Tourism on modern scientific lines is welcome. The Board has a membership of Tourism professionals, travel trade representatives, experts and bureaucrats from within the state and outside. They will meet, discuss various aspects and give some sound expert advice. However, there is already plenty of advice in the form of various surveys, expert opinions, master plans and so on available with the government. In fact, the state government had commissioned Tata Consultancy to prepare a vision document and a 20 year perspective plan, which hopefully has been received by the government?
Over the years there have been many Advisory Committees, Development Authorities and an umpteen number of survey reports for giving advice on Tourism Development. The Committees meet once in a year, deliberate and make recommendations which are never implemented! In seventies, the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation had commissioned a team of European Consultants to give a report for development of foreign tourism in Kashmir. After a detailed study and ground survey within the State and abroad, they submitted 20 copies of their detailed report with specific recommendations. Nothing came out and one does not know what happened to the report?
In recent times, the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India paid rupees eighteen lakhs to a Delhi based consultancy to prepare a report for Kashmir Tourism. That report too did not make any difference. Committees, Boards, and Authorities are easiest ways for procrastination. When one wants to delay action, committees are constituted. It has been said that a committee is a group of people who are incapable of taking any decision independently and do not want to take any decision collectively!
What Kashmir needs in every sphere of activity is an action oriented Task Force to take action on ground and monitor the same on a regular basis. Dr. Farooq Abdullah towards the end of his last tenure as the Chief Minister had initiated the creation of a Tourism Task Force headed by the State Chief Secretary. All the concerned Secretaries to Government were its members with the Secretary Tourism as the Member Secretary and the Director General Tourism as its Convener. The Task Force was expected to oversee all Tourism projects and ensure timely implementation. However, before the orders constituting the Task Force could be issued, elections were announced. The next government instead of issuing orders changed the entire thing and instead created more than 20 Tourism Development Authorities based more or less in relation to assembly constituencies. Instead of following the global criteria for Tourism Development, infrastructure was created in many places which remained unutilised. In fact, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India in its report observed that the expenditure of rupees five hundred crores on these authorities was infructuous as the infrastructure created had remained mostly unutilised.
It has been reported that the J & K Government wants to create a Singapore model.The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) is a statutory board under the Ministry of Trade and Industry of Singapore. It champions the development of Singapore's tourism sector, one of the country's key service sectors and economic pillars, and undertakes the marketing and promotion of Singapore as a tourism destination.
There is also talk of creating the UK model. It is the British Tourist Authority. British Tourist Authority (BTA) is a Non-Departmental Public Body (NDPB), funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). The functions, duties and powers of BTA are set out in the Development of Tourism Act 1969 (the Act). The Act defines BTA’s functions as:
Encouraging overseas visitors to come to Great Britain
Encouraging people who live in Great Britain to take their holidays in Great Britain
Promoting the provision and improvement of tourist amenities and facilities in Great Britain.
BTA also has a duty to:
Advise ministers and public bodies on tourism matters in Great Britain.
Whatever model the Government may adopt, it has to be borne in mind that these countries have totally free market economy. We are virtually state controlled in every respect. All these proposals are long term measures to develop Tourism on global standards. However, in the immediate future we need action on existing deficiencies in infrastructure, accessibility, regulation of trade, and the most important of all in the attitude of people involved in the trade. To undertake this Government needs to set up a high powered multi-departmental Task Force at the highest administrative level which would streamline all these activities. Will they do it?