Mumbai: In remarks that could stoke controversy, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said that the ministers were capable of “silencing” archaeologists and activists if they stood in the way of the government in developing tourism potential in the country.
“Archaeologists will not complain if a wall (of old heritage structure) erodes away but if you put a coat of paint, they will question. There is no dearth of such ‘learned’ people in our government,” Shipping Minister Gadkari said at a roadshow to get private investments for upgrading old lighthouses in Mumbai on Thursday.
“We ministers are capable of silencing them. If such people come to us we will throw them out,” he said.
Gadkari said India has taken up an ambitious plan to develop 78 of its 189 lighthouses dotting the country’s vast coastline as new tourism beacons, while expressing his annoyance with the activism which obstructs development.
“Some people convert problems into opportunities and some convert opportunities into problems,” he said, adding, he was at one point “fed up” because of such activism when he was a minister in Maharashtra.
“All over the world, lighthouses enthrall tourists with their scenic and serene surroundings and a rich maritime heritage. In India, there is a vast tourism potential which remains largely untapped,” Gadkari said.
In this context, the Directorate-General of Lighthouses and Lightships (DGLL), Noida, plans to develop 78 out of the total 189 lighthouses into tourist attractions on a public-private partnership model, he told an Investor Summit here on ‘Development of Lighthouses as Beacons of Tourism’.
Some of the lighthouses identified for the purpose are in the coastal states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, Lakshadweep, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, West Bengal and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
In Maharashtra, nine lighthouses are planned to be developed namely Sunk Rock, Kanhoji Island, Uttar Point, Korlai Fort, Jaigadh, Ratnagiri, Devgadh, Vengurla Rocks and Tolkeshwar Point, while there are two in Goa, at Fort Aguada and Sao George, the minister said.
The shipping ministry has already held roadshows in Chennai, Kochi and Visakhapatnam and a whopping 236 potential investors in the lighthouse tourism project have come forth.
Gadkari admitted there would be some roadblocks like CRZ clearance, security aspects and subsidy from the Centre, but the government would adopt a positive attitude in tackling them.
“An Inter-Ministerial Group comprising representatives of various ministries and participating states will be set up to iron out any problems, while the Shipping Ministry has already consulted Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Environment for security and environmental clearances,” Gadkari added.
Director General of Lighthouses and Lightships Captain A M Surez said four lighthouses — in Chennai, Mahabalipuram (Tamil Nadu), Allepy and Kannur (Kerala) — have already been developed as tourist attractions and are seeing substantial footfalls.
He added that the development of lighthouses would boost the local economy, generate more employment, and involve creating infrastructure like hotels or resorts, thematic restaurants, viewing galleries, museums and allied facilities.
South Korea, Scotland and South Africa pioneered the development of lighthouse tourism and, though a late starter, India hopes to catch up with them soon, the officials said.
(With inputs from agencies)