New Delhi: Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday said projects for port connectivity, tourism infrastructure and amenities will be taken up "on our islands, including Lakshadweep" to address the "emerging fervour" for domestic tourism in the country. While presenting the interim Union Budget, she also said, "our economic strength has made the country an attractive destination for business and conference tourism".
The mention of Lakshadweep by the minister is significant because Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the island on January 4. He had tried snorkelling and said Lakshadweep has to be on the list of visits for those who wish to embrace the adventurer in them.
A row erupted on social media when a minister and some other leaders in the Maldives used derogatory remarks against Prime Minister Modi after he posted a video of him on a pristine beach in Lakshadweep. Following this, several Indians and tour operators cancelled their plans to visit the Maldives, which has tilted towards China and away from India under its new President Mohamed Muizzu.
Sitharaman, in her budget speech, said the Indian middle class also now "aspires to travel and explore". Tourism, including spiritual tourism, has tremendous opportunities for local entrepreneurship, she added.
"States will be encouraged to take up comprehensive development of iconic tourist centres, branding and marketing them at a global scale. A framework for rating of the centres based on quality of facilities and services will be established," the finance minister said. Long-term interest-free loans will be provided to states for financing such development on a matching basis, she added.
"To address the emerging fervour for domestic tourism, projects for port connectivity, tourism infrastructure and amenities will be taken up on our islands, including Lakshadweep. This will help in generating employment also," the Union minister said. "The success of organising G-20 Summit meets at 60 places presented the diversity of India to a global audience," Sitharaman added.