What’s behind the Iconic Landmarks initiative?

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In her budget speech earlier this month, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the country’s 17 “iconic tourist spots” would be developed by the government “into world-class tourist destinations, to serve as a model for others. tourist attractions”. The initiative was aimed at enhancing India’s soft power.

Construction sites

Taj Mahal and Fatehpur Sikri (Uttar Pradesh), Ajanta & Ellora (Maharashtra), Humayun’s Tomb, Red Fort and Qutub Minar (Delhi), Colva (Goa), Amer Fort (Rajasthan), Somnath and Dholavira (Gujarat), Khajuraho ( Madhya Pradesh), Hampi (Karnataka), Mahabalipuram (Tamil Nadu), Kaziranga (Assam), Kumarakom (Kerala) and Mahabodhi Temple (Bihar).

Vision

Union Tourism and Culture Minister Prahlad Patel told The Indian Express: “The government is looking at the overall development from the perspective of tourism in and around these sites – which includes roads and infrastructure , hotels and lodges, connectivity and access”. As such, several ministries, from Railways to Civil Aviation, will be involved, while the Ministry of Tourism will be the nodal agency. In line with international standards, interventions in and around monuments will have elements of universal accessibility, green technology and enhanced security for tourists.

Funding

The Ministry of Tourism has been allocated Rs 1,378 crore for tourism infrastructure development. This is only slightly more than allocations in 2017-18 (Rs 1,151 crore) and 2018-19 (Rs 1,330 crore).

Role of the UPS

A spokesperson for the Archaeological Survey of India told the Indian Express: “We have not yet received any plan or proposal from the Ministry of Tourism regarding the project mentioned in the budget… Meanwhile, modernization and facelift projects on many of these listed sites are already underway; some like the Red Fort and the Qutub Minar are even nearing completion.”

Adopt-a-Heritage Program Status

Many of these monuments were opened for adoption in late 2017 as part of the Department of Tourism’s Adopt a Heritage program. Red Fort has been adopted by Dalmia Group, while Qutub Minar and Ajanta Caves have been adopted by Yatra Online. But the momentum of the program has since slowed, and only 11 MoUs have been signed so far.

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