Nazaria -15 Article Posted on : 2013-10-05
Punjab Tourism projects needs a new push: Changes desired in approach to Fundamentals.
Northern sister states, such as Punjab, Haryana, Himachal, Rajasthan, J&K carried on ritual exercise celebrating Tourism week with respective models in their state capitals. Punjab Tourism otherwise remained derailed for a number of years during difficult times for the state, also held seminar on future policy but without reference to learning from collective past errors. Punjab otherwise got proud history when responded swiftly to the challenges encountered from Tourism related developments in immediate neighbor state of Haryana & Himachal ,way back in 1976 -78 when a few RESORT PROJECTS were developed simultaneously in Ludhiana ,Neelon, Sirhind, Madhopur, Ropar. The Entry of bad times for Punjab coincided with early initiatives taken by newly formed Punjab Tourism Corporation for speedy developments for Tourist spots. The period of 1980 to 1996 brought major shift for state priorities, opting first to Law & order, than to entertainment, Tourism promotion, and Resort or Hotel Industry developments.
The Top Management always hold key preparing short/medium/Long term development Models for the state. But the placement of many I.A.S. officers as an Executive head for the Punjab state Tourism corporation stood considered by most as side line – cool posting along with partial rest time before taking up larger department by cultivating new – old political references. The employees for the corporation not seeing enough growth or signs of improvements displayed frustration & indulged in unionism, playing in the hands of certain politics, undermined basic aesthetics for managerial operations with outside political support. They were divided on the lines of old – new staff cadre of P.T.D.C. v/s borrowed from Dairy development and office employees v/s cadre for hotel operations etc .Some of the Top Executives like Bikramjeet Singh, Mrs H.Gill, Mr K.D. Arora, Mr R.R. Bhardwaj sincerely tried to operate Tourism subject on desired prospectus but either moved out early or could not get enough support from state in terms of adequate funding. The absence for Principal operational policy on Management of old – New Projects slowed down the activities. The Tourism Corporation became victim for indecisiveness at most levels for about 20 years, resulting in ultimate sale options for the Tourism Projects. The top Management also could not adopt basic mandatory input policy, while expecting Growth as of Haryana State Tourist Projects.
There were certain innovations brought in 1986, during the tenure of Mr Bhardwaj, who introduced new Holiday Home concept. The State & Public partnership was introduced by providing share in assured accommodation at different Tourist locations in India. The idea brought life to the stagnant conditions of the corporation by associating 1,000 NRI’s & 4,500 local Membership. The scheme itself was initially discredited with logic that corporation should have focused to state Projects than to moving out, but Mr Bhardwaj proved right that when not enough was getting cleared for major improvements within the state, other methods brought new activity for state Tourism .The investment made by collection for funds from N.R.I.’s & local Public was invested for Projects in Goa, Manali, Jaipur, Dharmsala, Masoorie & few other locations.
The members for Holiday Home stood deprived for facilities since many years & neither considered to be custodians for the Holiday Home properties, laying as non functional Assets, in addition to legal battle in High Court for legitimacy of sale by the state. The congress Government sold out state Projects with oenology for improvements with Management by private players. Madhopur Resort, a scenic beauty Project, was alleged to have been picked up by an influential local leaders of that area and immediately exchanged hands between 2 – 3 owners with profit margins .Queen’s Flower at Neelon sold for less than 3 crs has otherwise displayed tremendous infrastructure & service improvements ,Amaltas at Ludhiana, F.R.Sirhind & some other units could not be disposed, due to certain technicalities and now being maintained through Punjab Tourism Infrastructure Development Board, as a stop gap arrangement by hiring casuals manpower to run basic show for restaurants, before fresh effort for the sale or state – Public participation arrangements are taken up .
One of a well wishers, conscious for continuity of life in the basic aesthetics for the state art & culture, Mr S.S.Sekhon, who recently retired as a Chief architect, referred to be proud to have been groomed under the guidance of great administrator; Dr M.S.Randhawa I.C.S. but expressed his anguish that some of the Top Managements for the corporation, unfortunately conducted Tourism operations exclusively as a commercial business venture without organizing required inputs for betterment of infrastructure. Most of them in the absence for an exposure to the cultural heritage of Punjab took respective assignment period for partial holiday times and never connected to the ethos for the state. The development for RESORTS’, MOTELS, and CAFÉ’S required continued resource contributions by the state before looking in for cash profits .The resorts had also been places for PROJECTING STATE and not expected for immediate profit earning Projects. Most of the Managements mislead the Governing state political leadership, who were attending many other higher Job priorities on hand, hence fell in line for sale of state Tourist Projects during congress regime.
The present state Government is known to be pro people and is heard to have taken position for no further sale of left out Projects, including Holiday Home properties. Punjabis may be perplexed on updating their knowledge that Punjab Tourism Corporation laid Foundation for a Five Star Hotel Project during 1989 in collaboration with I.T.D.C. at sector 34, Chandigarh and the Foundation stone was laid by Mr S.S. Ray. The Top bureaucratic Management for Punjab Tourism later withdrew for development to unknown reasons. The I.T.D.C. came up for independent Hotel Project in sector 17, Chandigarh, built structure but sold out during 2002 just for Rs. 17 Crs to GVK Taj which incidentally had been less than half of previous rates on record for Hotel site of Sector 35 for U.T. Administration. The Chandigarh Administration had on record sold Sector 35 Hotel site (J.W.Marriott) for similar size to Rana Group of Industries around the period of 1995-96 for approximately Rs 35 Crs & later resold for about Rs. 110 cr .Again the Smart card played by neighbor Himachal Government was entertained by U.T. for establishment of Himachal Bhawan to facilitate stay for visiting officers of their state but otherwise operated – managed for all intents & purposes as Hotel by Himachal Tourism Corporation. They got allotted plot (Himachal Bhawan) on reserved Government land price.
Punjab operators did another Himalayan blunder in selection for site of Five Star Hotel by when the Top Management opted for site selection for nearness to Bus Stand than to a upper category location site, opposite Company Bagh (adjacent Thandi Khuhi) in Amritsar and Project later failed when competition shaped up in city. Another Hotel Project by P.T.D.C. which was to be constructed on about two acres of land in Mohali was also cancelled, leaving Punjab Government without sufficient adequate space for official Events in & around seat of Governance .The state has not yet disclosed future development plan for a Government Project of their own for in house Conferencing & Event arrangements in the city beautiful.
The Chandigarh Administration now under controls of New Delhi may have sagacity to oblige Punjab who happened to be mother state by providing suitable piece of land for construction of a Bhawan Complex, developed with adequate conference facilities of their own reducing dependability on Commercial Private Hotels & of U.T. Administration. The dream of Punjab for direct Governance on Chandigarh territory therefore appears for a bleak distance dream, courtesy real system operators, who appear to be more loyal to their parent cadre controllers in Delhi & not displaying enough corresponding sincerity for consumption of state water & salt, while being in service here, thus are presented with an open appeal for their consideration to pay back state gratitude partially:
Punjab state must re look in for a site in Chandigarh, with reserve price land rates for establishment of their new Bhawan on land area for about 5 – 7 acres for official events than to be doing in commercial Hotels.
Punjab Tourism Holiday Homes are property of Members and they may be associated for re commissioning of the operations faithfully by the state, the Tourism being second custodian of properties.
The new policy for management operations for existing & new must be brought forward without considering; only cash gains as a fundamental for operations of Tourist complexes.
N.R.I.’s may be interested to invest in religious circuit Resort facilities if land allotment has inbuilt subsidy elements, incentives by state Government.
Nirmal Singh Keerka ,
Gen Secretary, Punjab Heritage & Education Foundation.
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