New Delhi, July 8:
Railway Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda’s Tuesday proposal to begin special pilgrimage and eco-tourism services will boost domestic tourism and encourage private participation in the sector, stakeholders say.
Presenting the 2014-15 railway budget, he said specially packaged trains for pilgrim circuits like Devi Circuit, Jyotirling Circuit, Jain Circuit, Christian Circuit, Muslim/Sufi Circuit, Sikh Circuit, Buddhist Circuit, Famous Temple Circuit will be introduced.
The minister said the Indian Railways is planning to take up eco-tourism and education tourism services in the northeastern states.
Culture Minister Shripad Yesso Naik welcomed these initiatives, particularly the plan to take up “eco-tourism and education tourism” in the northeastern states.
“These new initiatives will go a long way in promoting tourism in the country,” said Naik.
He also assured full cooperation of the ministries of tourism and culture to the Indian Railways for speedy implementation of the projects.
“Both ministries will work in close coordination with the Indian Railways to fulfil the aspirations of both domestic and international visitors,” he said.
According to Gowda, some trains for pilgrims and tourists are intended to be introduced in the short run.
He gave an example of one such train service that will run from Gadag to Pandarpur via Bagalkot, Bijapur and Solapur, covering the pilgrim places of Maharashtra and Karnataka.
Other such proposed services are slated to start from Rameshwaram, covering pilgrim and tourist places like Bangalore, Chennai, Ayodhya, Varanasi and Haridwar.
Sharat Dhall, president of Yatra.com, feels the railway budget is “looking at a major infrastructural boost” with the government being open to foreign direct investment and public-private partnerships.
“Pilgrimage tourism for domestic travellers is a huge market, which should get a big fillip with these initiatives as it will definitely help travellers plan their journeys better,” Dhall told IANS.
“The budgeted outlay for increasing infrastructure in the northeast will help popularise this market for domestic tourism,” he added.
Gowda said he also planned to run a special train featuring life and works of Swami Vivekananda to inculcate good moral values.