Cultural shift

first_imgIn the budget for 2017-18, five ministries – tourism, culture, sports and youth affairs, environment and climate change and social justice and empowerment – were allocated a total of Rs 16,104 crore, just 1.51 per cent of the Rs 10,62,751 crore allocated for various sectors. This number is some indication,In the budget for 2017-18, five ministries – tourism, culture, sports and youth affairs, environment and climate change and social justice and empowerment – were allocated a total of Rs 16,104 crore, just 1.51 per cent of the Rs 10,62,751 crore allocated for various sectors. This number is some indication of the Modi government’s emphasis – or lack of it – on these ministries. According to a March 2017 report by the World Travel and Tourism Council, the tourism industry in India directly supported 25.3 million jobs, which is 5.8 per cent of the country’s total jobs.In the World Economic Forum’s list on travel and tourism competitiveness this year, India has been ranked 40, a considerable jump of 12 places from 2015. It’s also the biggest leap any country has taken in that ranking. India’s travel and tourism sector was also the fastest growing amongst G20 nations, growing by 8.5 per cent in 2016.Experts believe the growth has been propelled by initiatives such as recognising five tourist circuits and a boost to religious tourism, but poor infrastructure still remains a big impediment to growth. “The government should focus on building world-class leisure destination infrastructure,” says Deep Kalra, chairman and CEO of What also remains a challenge is that these figures are predominantly generated by domestic travel, which accounted for 88 per cent of the sector’s contribution to GDP in 2016.However, Mahesh Sharma’s performance as a minister for culture doesn’t match up to his achievements as a tourism minister. He has introduced some transparency in the grants of funds and scholarships, but several institutes under the ministry remain headless.advertisementThe biggest reform by the ministry of social justice and empowerment has been the decision to disband the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) and replace it with a National Commission for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (NCSEBC). More than reform, it was a reaction to two developments. Firstly, it was the BJP’s tacit acknowledgement that support from Other Backward Classes played a crucial role in its victory in the Uttar Pradesh elections. The decision came within a week of Jat agitators from Haryana threatening to disrupt life in Delhi. The UPA government had included that community in the Central OBC list a day before the 2014 parliamentary polls were announced, but the notification was scrapped by the Supreme Court. The BJP government perhaps doesn’t want a repeat of that situation.Another development is the 35 per cent rise from last year in funds allocated for the welfare of Scheduled Castes. Nearly 54 per cent of the ministry’s budget is spent on scholarships for Scheduled Castes. With the launch of the Accessible India Campaign, special camps have been organised for distribution of aids and assistive devices to 600,000 people with disabilities. The types of disabilities have been increased from 7 to 21. Quota for people with disabilities in government jobs has been increased from 3 to 4 per cent.In sports, despite minister Vijay Goel’s personal intervention, there has been no major reform. The government is planning to table the new national sports code in the monsoon session of Parliament. Panels have been set up to prepare athletes for the next Olympics and new schemes launched to find sporting talent, but the pace of execution remains slow. “The government must create an institutional framework that instils confidence in parents and children to take up sports as a full-time career,” says team India footballer Gouramangi Singh.In the environment ministry, Anil Madhav Dave’s target is to bring down the average waiting period for project approval to 100 days. His toughest challenge, however, will be to make a final decision after the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee recommended approval for the commercial production of GM mustard. The BJP’s ideological parent, the RSS, is vehemently opposed. For now, there is respite for Dave as a parliamentary standing committee is looking into the issue. MAHESH SHARMAMoS (INDEPENDENT CHARGE) FOR CULTURE AND TOURISMPhoto: Chandradeep KumarFrom introducing e-visas to recognising tourist circuits and launching a vernacular interface for international travellers, Mahesh Sharma has offered a significant promotional boost to the industry. “We have sanctioned Rs 4,800 crore for theme-based circuits under the Swadesh Darshan Yojana; Rs 488 crore has been allocated for spiritual tourism,” he says. “It will take us about a year to complete these projects.” The ministry’s drafting of a new tourism policy has been welcomed by Aditi Chanchani, director of Equations, a non-profit organisation that studies the impact of tourism on local communities. At the same time, she is not entirely pleased with the ministry’s approach. “The ministry sought contributions only from formal stakeholders…. There is no acknowledgement of people whose homes and backyards are promoted as tourism destinations,” she says. As culture minister, Sharma has fewer accomplishments. “It has revived the IGNCA, and it is easier for artists to apply for and get grants,” says Ashish Mohan Khokar, an authority on Indian arts and culture. But there is still no word on a cultural policy and no assessment of organisations such as the Sangeet Natak Akademi.-Kaushik DekaadvertisementTHAWAR CHAND GEHLOTMINISTER FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE & EMPOWERMENTPhoto: Rajwant RawatA major reform carried out by the ministry of social justice under Thawar Chand Gehlot was the scrapping of the National Commission for Backward Classes, and its replacement by a National Commission for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes.”During the UPA regime,” said Gehlot, when asked how the ministry for social justice changed after the Modi government came to power, “the ministry had no identity and people were not even aware of its work. Under the Modi government, the ministry has become alive and active, and has gained recognition worldwide.” Gehlot’s ministry can also claim credit for the passage of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, as well as significantly increased protections for members of scheduled castes. Another new initiative by his ministry was the launch of the Rashtriya Vayoshri Yojna for senior citizens in April 2017, aimed at providing physical aids and living assisted devices to senior citizens belonging to the BPL category.-Santosh KumarLATE ANIL MADHAV DAVEMoS (INDEPENDENT CHARGE) FOR ENVIRONMENT, FOREST AND CLIMATE CHANGEPhoto: Pankaj NangiaTo do, or what else to do? This complicated phrase describes the situation Anil Madhav Dave has found himself in ever since the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) – an apex body in his ministry to regulate the manufacture and use of genetically engineered organisms in the country-gave its go-ahead for the commercial production of GM Mustard.His party’s ideological parent, the RSS is vehemently opposed to it, and so are his party’s chief ministers. The fight between his bureaucrats and the Sangh’s ideologues has caught Dave (who is himself a former pracharak) in the crossfire. However, he has some respite-the issue is also pending at the Supreme Court.Dave is also working to reduce the time taken for environmental approvals to be granted. His predecessor Prakash Javadekar brought down the average waiting period for approvals to 190 days from 600 days during the UPA regime. Dave’s task is reduce that to 100 days.Dave was appointed as MoS with independent charge in July last year, after Javadekar was elevated to cabinet minister. An activist and expert in river conservation, Dave is determined to reduce the environmental costs affecting urban life as well. At a discussion on amendments to the Montreal Protocol at Kigali in Rwanda, Dave made a commitment that India would not permit the use of HFC 23 greenhouse gas, which is used as a refrigerant in air conditioners and refrigerators. Besides that, Dave has mostly toed the line drawn by Javadekar. In January this year, at a lunch for 40 expert members of various appraisal committees working all over the country, he described his five-point programme: Zero corruption; no holding up of development projects; facilitating the ‘ease of doing business’; a wariness of NGOs funded by foreign interests, and shape up or ship out.advertisementDave died of cardiac arrest on May 18.-Anilesh S. MahajanVIJAY GOELMoS (INDEPENDENT CHARGE) FOR YOUTH AFFAIRS AND SPORTSPhoto: Rajwant RawatFrom offering to mediate between warring tennis legends Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes to a Twitter spat with Dangal actor Zaira Wasim, Vijay Goel has been in the news since he took charge. But beyond headlines, he is a hands on minister. “There is no institution or department that I have not visited, whether it is the SAI centres or Gopichand Academy,” he says. Appalled by the state of some SAI centres, he has sought an assessment report of the facilities as well as the coaches employed there. He also claims to be the first sports minister to have held meetings with all the Dronacharya and Arjuna awardees and Olympic medallists to seek inputs. “Yes, the ministry is making the right noises. But there has been a lot of backlog because of poor implementation, so the crucial part will be how this noise is converted into action,” says Hakimuddin Habibulla, co-founder of GoSports India, a sports management company. For better implementation, Goel plans to bring Sports under the concurrent list. There may also soon be a comprehensive national sports development code, to ensure that sports federations follow certain basic norms.A task force has been set up to prepare an action plan for effective participation of players in the next three Olympics. The government has launched “Khelo India” for the development of a sporting culture at the grassroots level. Goel has also set up a high-level committee to address the grievances and complaints of women sportspersons. And after setting up the Manipur Sports University, government is exploring the possibility of a similar university in Gwalior.-Kaushik Dekalast_img

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