By N.K.A. Ballal, Retd. Sr. Vice-President, ITDC
Five percent growth in Gross Domestic Products (GDP) ! There is a recession staring on our Indian economy. The Government in its wisdom has announced several fiscal stimulus, aimed at giving the necessary push to the economy. Ironical, the banks are flush with funds but no private players are forthcoming to take loans for starting new ventures. Series of problems and frauds has made the bankers more stringent in lending. They are now checking each report with a magnifying glass to ensure that there is no lacuna which can be a future Non-Performing Asset (NPA) mess. A catch-22 situation.
A silver lining for India now is the “tourism sector.” India has done well to move up from the 40th position in 2017 to 34th place in world tourism index compiled by the World Economic Forum (WEF). A rise of 6 places in a single year is commendable considering the fact that we were literally slow moving in the earlier years and stagnant.
Tourism is also a pet subject of our Prime Minister Modi. He very well understands that tourism is the only sector which can provide direct and indirect employment to hundreds and thousands of unemployed youths.
We need to do much more if we have to go up the ladder. Yes, it is a fact that we have all the so-called natural resources required for tourism like beaches, temples, Palaces and eastern mystic factor too. But infrastructure ? Far from international standards even in tourism-friendly States like Kerala, Rajasthan or Goa. As far as international tourists are considered, let us not even discuss Karnataka where infrastructure is awful to say the least.
In the “safety aspect” India has slipped from a poor 114 to 122. The constant attacks on women tourists and sexual attacks on women highlighted by the international press has done irreparable damage. Constant political unrest and law and order situations is adding to the problem.
In 2018, tourism contributed approximately 10 percent of the gdp and employment to 42 million people ! Potential? Easy doubling possible. It is time the tourism management of the potential States be handled by “specialists” and not IAS and IPS Officials who may or may not have the necessary expertise or creative bent of mind to handle this sensitive portfolio.
Now Dasara is here but due to the pressure of a new Government formation, the preparations for the festival took off just 30 days back. Old wine in a new bottle. Same helicopter rides, tableaux, Yuva Dasara, kusti, folk dances etc. The Government in its own wisdom has posted a brand new Minister V. Somanna to handle all affairs of Mysuru since the district does not have any representation in the Cabinet. Thank God, the transfer of our DC was postponed till the conclusion of Dasara.
A simple thing like filling up of the potholes in the road has become a joke. Shoddy work, which is filling up the pockets of the officials rather than the potholes! One small rain, the holes are back. In some areas like K.C. Layout, where I stay, they are filling up potholes with mud !
Lesser I talk on Lansdowne or Devaraja Market renovation the better. Years have passed by but decisions are still pending. Should we demolish or should we construct on the existing building? Why can’t a decision be taken either way and work started? There will be critics for both the options, but we have to move forward with a decision.
Anyway, let us hope that Somanna, our District Minister, takes the following decisions during this Dasara:
1. Appoint a full-time film crew to film the Khas Durbar at Palace with permission of the king and a voice over of a professional both in English and Kannada. This 30 second film can be used by the tourism officials to publicise our State in various festivals and exhibitions abroad.
2. Khas Durbar could be marketed by the Department next year to premium international tourists. 3. Put up hoardings near the Airports of Bengaluru, Delhi and Chennai with the photograph of our Maharaja, asking people to come visit Mysuru for Dasara.
4. The king has been appointed as a “Brand Ambassador” of this city. Why can’t he be requested to come seated in an elephant next to the Chamundi idol on the procession in his full royal gear or come in a silver chariot? The procession would get a royal touch and royalty sells all over.
5. Small 30 second film to be made with the king on the lesser known destinations in and around Mysuru like Melukote, Gopalaswamy Betta and Nanjangud, on the lines of Amitabh Bachchan short films on Gujarat. This is for increasing high-end domestic traffic.
6. A permanent Dasara Committee. This point has been discussed and it is time it is implemented. But care should be taken to ensure that it is not a group of “yes men.” It should also not be too large and should have representation of stakeholders. The District Minister should be the Chairperson and Deputy Commissioner, the Secretary.
7. The bcci has been requesting for a 50-acre land for making a top class cricket stadium in city for a long time. This has been agreed in principle but why is it that a simple decision just goes on and on ? Can you imagine the tourism potential if only three matches are held in a year ? The TV coverage is so extensive that the city would get tourists from all over the world.
8. Yoga festival. I have been crying hoarse on this subject for long but to no avail. How is that the yoga capital of India is not hosting an International Yoga festival year by year? This also should become an annual festival like Dasara. The State should take the initiative to push start this event and once it becomes a success, private players would come in. City requires another event apart from Dasara.
9. Hawker market. This is a top class tourist attraction present in all top destinations of the world. A single destination in the centre of the city, where all hawkers sell their wares. Provides employment opportunity for the unemployed, additional tourist attraction and will decongest city too.
But what took my breath away this year is the illumination. The use of a single colour has transformed Mysuru into a wonderland. Rs. 3 crore, well-spent. I only hope and pray that Rain God spares us and we are able to hold this year’s Dasara festival without any hiccups
Some stray thoughts, I thought I should share.