Himachal Pradesh is one of the favourite tourist destinations and tourists will again start visiting the state once the situation improves, Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur said during a conversation with Prabhu Chawla, Editorial Director, The New Indian Express on TNIE’s Expressions, a series of live webcasts with people who matter.
“Under the guidance of PM Modi, we took various initiatives and successfully controlled the spread of this virus in Himachal Pradesh. We implemented curfew instead of the lockdown. It had good results — the state had only one positive case in May first week. However, situation got a bit bad when people from other places returned their homes,” Thakur said, regarding the steps taken to curb the spread of Covid.
When asked about the pressure from party workers and others on relaxing the lockdown norms, Thakur said there was not much pressure as such. “Because, people accept readily whatever Modi ji says. Like when he asked them to follow Janta Curfew, people readily agreed. There was no need to deploy police forces for that.”
On not testing enough number of people, Thakur said Himachal tops the list of states in Covid testing. He agreed that it is not easy to predict when the state will be free of virus, but asserted that situation is better as there are very few new cases.
“There is much of damage. Economy of the whole country is under pressure. Tourism sector is like a backbone for Himachal Pradesh. It is also a major source of employment. But, now all tourism-related activities have come to a halt,” he said, regarding to a query on the impact of Covid and lockdown on the state’s earnings.
When asked about the extent of the COVID impact in the state, he said that it is difficult to make a complete assessment, but added that the state has borne damage worth nearly Rs 17,000 - Rs 18,000 crore due to the pandemic. He said that nearly 55,000 people are employed with the tourism sector, which sustained the maximum impact of the lockdown.
With the annual budget being nearly Rs 49,000 crore, the chief minister sounded hopeful that the tourism sector— the main source of revenue — will revive. “There is a hope that tourism sector will revive. I get phone calls from people outside. They want to visit our state. Himachal is one of the favourite tourist destinations. In the coming time, when the situation will improve, tourists will again start visiting.”
The CM said that developmental activities should not be impacted and added that there is no decision on cutting salary of employees. Thakur said that his government is working on connectivity improvement to attract more investment and tourists. He also highlighted the potential of the pharma sector in the state, saying that a lot of investment is expected in the coming time.