Non-NDA states allege political bias in iconic tourism sites shortlist
Multiple non-NDA states have alleged that the Central government's shortlist of 17 tourism destinations to be developed into "iconic tourism sites" reeks of political bias. The allegations come on the backdrop of the Central government picking destinations in 12 states, eight of which are ruled by NDA governments. Despite the Centre's claim of fairness, critics have also pointed out gaps. Here are the details.
The shortlist includes Taj Mahal, Fatehpur Sikri (Uttar Pradesh), Ajanta and Ellora (Maharashtra), Humayun's Tomb, Qutub Minar, Red Fort (Delhi), Colva Beach (Goa), Amer Fort (Rajasthan), Somnath and Dholavira (Gujarat), Khajuraho (Madhya Pradesh), Hampi (Karnataka), Mahablipuram (Tamil Nadu), Kaziranga (Assam), Kumarakom (Kerala), Mahabodhi Temple (Bihar).
Recently, tourism minister KJ Alphons, while responding to a question in Parliament, said that the tourism ministry had identified the 17 sites based on footfalls, regional distribution, potential for development, and ease of implementation. Several state tourism ministers pointed out biases, despite Alphons's assurance. Alphons, however, dismissed allegations of discrimination citing negligence on part of states to develop tourism, which is a state subject.
Navjot Singh Sidhu, the Punjab tourism minister, citing the exclusion of the Golden Temple, alleged that the central government had failed to follow its own selection criteria. Odisha and West Bengal tourism ministers - Ashok Chandra Panda and Goutam Deb, respectively - had similar allegations, citing the exclusion of the Konark Sun Temple, Jagannath Temple in Odisha, and the Victoria Memorial in West Bengal.
"The Golden Temple in Amritsar gets 1.10 lakh visitors on an average every day, while the Taj Mahal receives just 10,000. Despite that, the Golden Temple wasn't selected," said Punjab tourism minister Navjot Singh Sidhu.
The shortlist was created following a 2018-19 post-budgetary proposal by Arun Jaitley for the creation of iconic tourism sites. Five states and a Union Territory - namely, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Puducherry, Punjab, Telangana, and West Bengal - have demanded that the Centre include an iconic site from each state in the country as all of them have something special to offer.