NEW DELHI: Along the 7,000km long Indian coastline are over a thousand little-known islands. The Narendra Modi government is gearing up to throw open some of these to the public. Several union ministries are working to give tourists access to 32 shortlisted islands.
Working on an ambitious plan of the Ministry of Home Affairs for the holistic development islands, Cabinet Secretary P K Sinha last week chaired a meeting with multiple agencies to give a final shape to the project, prodded by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
During the meeting, 32 islands of Andaman, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Lakshadweep, Kerala, Goa, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal have been shortlisted for development, which were earlier facing security clearance from the Ministry of Defence. The Navy still has objections to four islands.
A government official said that security agencies were using these islands’ strategic assets for carrying out their clandestine activities. After the 26/11 Mumbai attack, a majority of surveillance equipment was moved to these islands so that movement of intelligence sleuths could not be exposed.
Agencies are working to develop coastal tourism identified for development of backwaters, mangrove and cruise tourism. The government has proposed to develop and promote tourism, including recreation facilities such as water sports, resorts, light and sound shows at tourist attractions, which will be the responsibility of the state governments and Union Territory administrations. The Ministry of Tourism will provide financial assistance to the projects.
“If small countries of Southeast Asia can generate huge revenues from coastal tourism, why shouldn’t India utilise its natural resources to attract tourists?” an official said. India is competing with countries like Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia in the tourism sector. According to available figures of 2014, when Malaysia received 27.4 million tourists and Thailand got 24.8 million, India was visited by 7.7 million tourists.