Progress ‘very slow’ in tourism ministry’s PRASHAD scheme: parliamentary panel

New Delhi, Feb 9 (PTI) A parliamentary panel has observed that there are a total of 45 sanctioned projects under the Ministry of Tourism’s PRASHAD scheme out of which “only 20 have been completed,” noting that its “progress is very slow.”

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The committee has also recommended that the Ministry of Tourism may “evolve its own mechanism” to collect data on the arrival of foreign and domestic tourists and all other data relevant to the tourism sector.

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The report of the panel on the Action Taken by the Government on the observations of the committee contained in its Report on Demands for Grants (2023-24) of Ministry of Tourism was presented in Rajya Sabha on Thursday.

The Ministry of Tourism had launched the Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual Heritage Augmentation Drive (PRASHAD) and Swadesh Darshan schemes in 2014-15 for developing infrastructure at tourist destinations, including religious sites, across the country.

On the PRASHAD scheme, the panel observed in its report that “there are a total of 45 sanctioned projects under this scheme out of which only 20 have been completed. Nine projects under this scheme are still pending completion with only up to 60 per cent progress. There are still 16 projects yet to be developed under this scheme.”

Considering the fact that this scheme was initiated in 2014-15, “the progress is very slow,” the panel flagged.

The parliamentary committee also observed that all the projects, both completed and ongoing, under PRASHAD “have had delays of at least one year.”

“Some projects like the Development of Mathura-Vrindavan, UP as Mega Tourist Circuit (Ph-II) and development of basic facilities at Vishnupad temple, Gaya, Bihar have had delay of four years. The committee also observes that some of the Targets in the EFC proposal of October 2021 pertaining to this scheme have not been achieved,” says the report.

The committee in its report has noted that it is the sole responsibility of the Ministry of Tourism to the “authenticity of the data published in their publications, whatever may be sources of collection.”

“Unless and until they are satisfied with the correctness of the data, the Ministry should not publish it in the public domain,” the report said.

The committee recommends that the Ministry of Tourism may “evolve its own mechanism” to collect data on the arrival of foreign and domestic tourists and all other data relevant to the tourism sector, it added.

The panel has also recommended that the Tourism Ministry should take all measures to “ensure that the data received by it from the ASI and the state governments is accurate.”

In its report, the committee also said it was “surprised to note that though the Ministry of Tourism has proposed 17 destinations as iconic destinations, the Government has not approved the proposals.”

The panel recommended that the government may take a decision on the proposals “at the earliest.”

In its report, the panel said the ministry has submitted that a Standard Tourism Methodology has been developed in line with UNWTO for a comprehensive and uniform collection of tourism statistics from all districts.

It also said a “separate budget allocation” should have been kept for a major yearlong event like the G20 which is expected to have much impact on Indian tourism”.

The committee further observed that the tourism ministry is planning to leverage India’s presidency of G20 to promote both domestic and inbound tourism this year. However, the Overseas Promotion and Publicity scheme has “not yet been approved” and the ministry can conduct only the crucial and unavoidable activities at this stage.

“The committee feels that this would be a setback to the ministry’s plans for global campaigns for promotion. The committee notes that all eight functioning overseas promotion offices are being shut down. The ministry has stated that alternative methods of promotion are being used but has not specified the methods in this regard. The committee observes that Tourism Officers have been appointed in Indian Missions abroad for the purpose of promotion of tourism,” the report read.

The panel suggested that the ministry “should not lose the opportunities” provided by the G20 meetings and the ‘Visit India’ promotional campaign and should make sure that a roadmap for promotion overseas is in place before the start of the next financial year so that budget can be utilised.

The committee said it was pleased to see the initiatives taken by the Ministry to take up the matter of selecting 25 tourist sites as pilot project for formation of a separate police unit in the states and UTs.

However, only 14 states have till date, deployed tourist police in one form or the other, the panel said and exhorted the Ministry to continue to take up the matter with other states for creation and deployment of tourist police at destinations in their areas.

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