Odisha Sun Times Bureau
New Delhi, Aug 21:
Tourism and Culture minister Ashok Panda has alleged that Odisha has been discriminated against in the area of development of tourist infrastructure in the last budget.
Talking to media persons after inaugurating the renovated Odisha Tourism office here yesterday, the minister cited the exclusion of Odisha in the National Heritage City Development & Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY), National Mission on Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual Augmentation Drive (PRASAD) and the Buddhist circuit plan to make his point.
“Odisha has a number of destinations with great religious and heritage significance. But unfortunately, none of these is part of the ambitious tourism infrastructure and circuit development programmes announced in the budget by the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley,” he lamented.
Historically significant places like Puri, Bhubaneswar, Konark, Lalitgiri, Uadaigiri and Ratnagiri were ignored in the announcement about developing ghats at major pilgrim centres, he pointed out.
The decision of the Railways to keep Odisha out of the special train for Buddhist circuit after the highly successful trial run last year was devoid of any rationale, he said.
Tourism and Culture secretary Arabinda Padhee unveiled an ambitious plan on tourism promotion that the state government had drawn up.
“We are planning a low cost, but high value campaign with emphasis on use of the digital space to reach out to the travelling world,” he said.
Marketing would be given a big thrust in the coming months with Rs 24 crore out of the annual budget of Rs 150 core for the tourism sector earmarked for building brand equity, Padhee said.
As part of the plan to promote the tourism sector in the state, road shows have been planned in Bengaluru, Mumbai and Hyderabad in the coming days, he added.
Citing the absence of adequate air connectivity as one of the major deterrents in the development of tourism in the state, he listed the various measures initiated by the government to improve the situation, including reduction of VAT on aviation turbine fuel (ATF) to 5% and talks with airlines like GoAir and FlyDubai.