Union Tourism and Culture Minister G Kishan Reddy on Sunday announced a special tourist train to cover the “Ambedkar circuit”.
Inaugurating the three-day conference of state tourism ministers in Dharamsala, Reddy said, “3,000 special railway coaches have been reserved to boost the tourism circuit. Like Ramayana and Buddhist circuit, special train will also be run on Ambedkar circuit.
In June, a special train was run on the Ramayana circuit, covering major places associated with the life of Lord Rama, including Ayodhya and Janakpur in Nepal. Officials said this would become a regular feature, especially as the Ram temple in Ayodhya nears its inauguration in 2024.
Talking to the media on the sidelines of the Dharamsala program, Reddy said that the Ministry of Tourism has prepared an action plan for various circuits under the Swadesh Darshan Scheme. Proposed in 2016, the Ambedkar Circuit covers Mhow in Madhya Pradesh, Ambedkar’s birthplace; Nagpur, where he converted to Buddhism; reside in Delhi where he lived during his last years; and Dadar in Maharashtra, where his body was cremated.
The three-day tourism ministers’ conference will discuss issues related to the tourism sector, including attracting foreign tourists, increasing domestic tourism, comprehensive development of tourist destinations and promoting indigenous activities in the domestic sector. There is also a special focus on eco-tourism, green tourism, medical tourism and wildlife tourism.
Reddy said the government is focusing on responsible and sustainable tourism and the National Tourism Policy, which will lay out the blueprint for these sectors, will be out before the next budget session. According to the new policy, green tourism and digital tourism will be the major focus areas of the government in the next decade.
The policy document also identified factors that hinder the growth of the tourism sector in the country, including “perceptions related to safety and security” and weak linkages between the Center and the states. Tourism ministry officials said that steps would be taken to address these issues.
The conclave also discussed how the tourism sector has been affected. COVID-19 Steps to be taken to return to pandemic and pre-pandemic levels. Reddy said that in terms of domestic tourism, the Himalayan states are doing well after the pandemic.
Reddy, who is also the development minister for the North Eastern Region, claimed that 99 per cent of insurgent groups in the Northeast had given up arms and now is the right time to focus on tourism and attracting investment. The government is planning to work on the construction of several new airports in the region. “There are 140 airports in the Northeast now, but by 2025 we plan to take it to 224,” he said.
To attract foreign tourists, the government had last year announced 5 lakh free e-visas on a first-come-first-served basis. Although Reddy told Indian Express that this limit has not yet been removed as the arrival of foreign tourists has been affected omicron Wave earlier this year. The e-Visa facility has now been extended to citizens of 160 countries.
The author is in Dharamsala at the invitation of the Ministry of Tourism