Karnataka fails to make a cut in rural tourism circuit

Karnataka fails to make a cut in rural tourism circuit

Centre has sanctioned Rs 44.64 crore to develop ‘Gandhi Circut’ in Bihar and Rs 80.37 crore to Kerala for a cruise tourism project

A view of Talacauvery in Kodagu district. Credit: DH File Photo

More than five years after the launch of much-hyped Rural Circuit tourism under the Swadesh Darshan Scheme, the rich cultural hotspots of rural Karnataka are yet to make it to the Centre’s list of places that can benefit from the scheme.

A recent statement by the Centre that the state government has not submitted any plan for building a Rural Tourism Circuit came as a big surprise for experts in the sector, who noted that Karnataka is losing a big opportunity.

Replying to a question by Mysore-Kodagu MP Pratap Simha, the Union Ministry of Tourism said that projects for the development of rural circuits are identified in consultation with the state governments. “No proposal has so far been received from Karnataka,” it said.

With this, the state government is missing out on crores of rupees which can help the rural sector to utilise its heritage constructively to build infrastructure and generate employment.

The Centre has sanctioned Rs 44.64 crore to develop ‘Gandhi Circut’ in Bihar and Rs 80.37 crore to Kerala for a cruise tourism project, experts have said.

“Karnataka has handloom, khadi, several tribal cultures, art and craft, including toys, besides places like Shivamogga’s Arasalu (of ‘Malgudi Days’ fame) that have their own story. These can be showcased to the world provided the government invests its energy,” an expert, who has worked with the government, said.

To a question, Tourism Secretary Pankaj Kumar Pandey, who was transferred to the department in March, said the Centre had only sought comments on the policy.

“Under Swadesh Darshan, we had sent for a coastal circuit which could not be approved due to delays including clearances under Coastal Zone Regulations. Recently, the Government of India had only asked for our comments on the draft rural tourism policy. We have given our comments,” he said.

The owner of a private tourist agency operating in Kodagu and Uttara Kannada districts said the government should join hands with local entrepreneurs.

“The government is reluctant to work with the private agencies. It should encourage entrepreneurs to come up with such proposals to realise the potential of the rural areas,” he said.