I will now focus on tourism: Narendra Modi (Interview)

December 6th, 2009 - 2:55 pm ICT by IANS  

Narendra Modi By Madhusree Chatterjee
Rann of Kutch (Gujarat), Dec 6 (IANS) Chief Minister Narendra Modi has set his sights on marketing Gujarat as a tourism destination and is inviting private investors to develop infrastructure at major sites like the picturesque Rann of Kutch.

The legacy of Lord Krishna, Mahatma Gandhi, the great salt desert of Kutch and at least 12,000 small and big religious carnivals woven around western India’s rich folk culture are the cornerstones of Gujarat’s tourism promotion initiative.

“Now that the state’s industrial growth is firm on its track, my focus is on tourism. I am looking for private investors to pump in funds for big tourism projects across the state like the way we consolidated our industry,” Chief Minister Narendra Modi told IANS in an interview at the Rannotsav in the Kutch region of Gujarat.

“The government will just act as a catalyst to rope in investors and ensure requisite infrastructure and logistics so that the projects can take off. A state cannot prosper without private investment,” he emphasised.

“We have the beautiful Rann, the most incredible salt desert - the only one of its kind- in the world. I want people to see it, especially on moonlit nights when it sparkles like diamonds. We have 12,000 small and big religious festivals, the lions of Gir, numerous bird sanctuaries, one of the largest habitats of flamingoes in the world, a vibrant and colourful culture and the relics of the Indus Valley civilisation,” Modi said, standing on the edge of the vast white salt plain (White Rann) that covers nearly 10,000 sq km.

Historians say the Rann is the ancient confluence of the Indus river which drained into the Arabian sea before the river changed its course nearly 2,000 years ago and the sea receded.

Outlining his vision for Gujarat as a mega tourism destination, he said the “state had opened up as a tourism destination in 2005 (declared the year of tourism) with a hub-and-spoke model”.

“We have divided Gujarat into eight tourism hubs which will act as the nodal centres for tourists to visit the attractive destinations. But distances in Gujarat are huge, unlike other states, and not all destinations are habitable. Therefore, the hubs - mostly the nearest urban centres - will cater to the comforts of the tourists. Bhuj for instance is the hub of the Kutch tourism circuit,” Modi said.

The chief minister wants to draw “family, health, religious and adventure tourists to the state”.

“Tourism provides employment to the largest number of local people - right from the man who pulls a rickshaw to the tour operators. Tourism ensures overall development of an area,” Modi said.

As part of his exercise to bring investment, Modi also interacted with ambassadors of 17 countries, who attended the Rannotsav at Bhuj and in a sprawling tent city at Dhordo, the last Indian village on the India-Pakistan border, in the middle of the barren Rann.

He briefed them on the key areas of industrial development and the tourism potential of the state.

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