State wants to blow up Rs 50 crore in three months on tourism promos

Updated: Jan 17, 2020, 07:13 IST | Sanjeev Shivadekar | Mumbai

The Government Order comes at a typically lean period for tourism, when families will be busy with their children's studies or their own year-end work

Tourism Minister Aaditya Thackeray
Tourism Minister Aaditya Thackeray

The state tourism department is in a scramble over how to spend R49.16 crore before March 31, which is the allocation under the Maharashtra Publicity of Tourism Media Plan. The erstwhile BJP government had earmarked Rs 84 crore for the financial year April 1, 2019 to March 31, 2020, but two elections back-to-back meant not a penny of it was spent. Failure to use the amount will send it right back to the treasury.

The tourism department has approved plans to spend Rs 49.16 crore before the end of the current fiscal year. The erstwhile Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Shiv Sena government had made provision for Rs 84 core for the promotion and development of tourism in the state on the national and international levels, for the fiscal year 2019-2020.

However, according to the tourism department, the budget remained unutilised due to two major elections, the Lok Sabha and the Assembly poll in 2019.

With less than three months for the end of the fiscal year, the department has revised the budget to Rs 49.16 crore.

"The initial budget for promotion and development was Rs 84 crore. Now, the revised plan of Rs 49.16 crore has been prepared and approved," the Government Resolution (GR) issued on January 4, 2020 by the state tourism department mentions.

The GR further cited that majority of the approved budget will be spent on display boards and social media. "Rs 20.40 crore will be used for promotional activities on social media and display boards," the document prepared by the department stated.

Wrong time for promotion

Ironically, the spending time identified by the department to promote tourism is a period when there is a lull in the travel industry, as students are busy with exam preparations and working as well as business class citizens are occupied with winding up accounts, achieving goals and targets set for the year.

Matheran, one of the popular hill stations in Maharashtra. File picMatheran, one of the popular hill stations in Maharashtra. File pic

BJP MLA Ashish Shelar claimed that Maharashtra has huge potential for tourism and one needs to spend enough to promote and develop it. "But the way the tourism department wants to spend nearly R50 crore in three to four months needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. I feel this haphazard spending is being done not for promotion of tourism, but for an image makeover of the tourism minister," the former BJP minister said, while making a veiled attack on Sena minister Aaditya Thackeray. Chief minister Uddhav Thackeray's MLA son, Aaditya, is cabinet minister for the tourism department.

'Shortsighted vision'

Shelar further added that tourism spending needs to be done with long-term planning and not with shortsighted vision. "The current plan lacks vision. It looks like the department wants to spend the money merely to exhibit that it is doing something on ground. But, in actuality, it is just an eye wash," he said.

'Visionary leadership'

pic

The Shiv Sena slammed the BJP for dragging party leadership into the issue. Milind Narvekar, party secretary, defending the move said, "The entire Thackeray clan, including Aaditya has affection towards the environment, nature and tourism. The young cabinet minister has a vision and plan for the development of the state. Hence, those who are upset with the rise of a visionary leadership, without understanding what the plans of the minister are, are making false propaganda and a deliberate attack on the Sena's Gen Next leadership," Narvekar told mid-day.

'Aaditya not connected'

However, Sena sources close to Aaditya claimed that he has no connection to the issue. "The decision on budget spending was taken before Aaditya Thackeray took charge of the tourism portfolio. Hence, linking this decision to the Yuva Sena leadership is not appropriate."

Rs 49.16cr
Amount the dept needs to spend before March 31

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