Government to promote Kerala tourism potential

March 18th, 2008 - 4:40 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Ambika Soni

New Delhi, March 18 (IANS) The government will do everything to promote Kerala’s tourism potential but the state government too has a role to play in this, the parliament was informed Tuesday. “This year, we have so far sanctioned seven of the 22 projects that the state government has proposed. Some festivals and fairs have not been sanctioned as (last year’s) completion certificates have not been received,” Tourism Minister Ambika Soni said during question hour in the Rajya Sabha.

“As soon as these certificates are received, more projects will be sanctioned,” she added.

“Is this assistance commensurate with Kerala’s potential?” countered Congress MP P.J. Kurien while raising a supplementary.

“We would like to give more money but our budget is so small. In spite of that, half of our budget goes in assistance to the states,” Soni replied, even as Finance Minister P. Chidambaram joined in the laughter that erupted in the house.

This prompted Jaya Bachchan (Samajwadi Party) to remark that while Kerala was one of India’s greenest states, political considerations - it is ruled by the Left parties - were coming in the way of it being given more money for promoting tourism.

“You have made an accusation against me. If you get the Kerala chief minister to say the same thing, I am prepared to apologise in this house,” Soni retorted.

“Political considerations are not an issue,” she maintained, adding that the ministry invariably took a holistic view of every state.

This did not satisfy Bachchan and her party colleague Amar Singh, who demanded that Soni apologise for her remarks.

As the din continued, Chairman Mohammad Hamid Ansari remarked in exasperation: “Please resist the temptation of interfering”.

Giving figures, Soni said that during the eighth and ninth Five Year Plans, Kerala had been sanctioned Rs.42.75 crores (Rs.427.5 million) for 103 programmes. During the 10th Plan, the state had been sanctioned Rs.138 crore (Rs.1.38 billion) for 61 projects.

“In 2007-08, we have sanctioned seven projects and Rs.24 crores 75 lakhs (Rs.247.5 million). I would also like to point out that Kerala had only one institute of hotel management. We have sanctioned Rs.10 crore (Rs.100 million) for a second institute,” Soni pointed out.

Then Bachchan, Amar Singh and other Samajwadi Party members again started shouting slogans. Ansari tried to pacify them but to no avail and eventually stood up.

“I don’t know if technology exists whereby honourable members who shout at each other can understand what is being said. Please let the house function,” he said - and this served to restore order.

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