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"People In Tourism Industry Employ More People Than Any Other Industry"
Under the new Swadesh Darshan and Prasad scheme of the union government, the Centre has invited proposal from every state in the range of Rs 250 crores to boost tourism
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The first sound and light show of Asia was organized by India Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) at Red Fort. Today, the body aims to organize such shows at every tourist destination of the country. In an exclusive interview with BW Businessworld, Anil Kumar Gupta, Head, sound and light show, ITDC speaks about significance of light and show in promoting tourism, partnership of ITDC with state governments, rural tourism and employment generation by tourism sector
How the idea of light and sound show for tourism evolved?
Earlier, people could only visit the monuments, jungles and other places of significance till the evening, but, there was nothing to do in the night for tourists. Thus, we came up with the idea of light and sound show during night time. ITDC came up with first light and sound show in Asia. Suppose, if a tourist stays in the night as well, then obviously he will spend but earlier tourists just planned trips for daytime. The light and sound show has given them a reason to stay at the tourist destination in the night as well.
What is the estimated cost of work that you plan to do by 2020?
We have got the capability to handle and execute more than six to eight sound and light shows in a year, which implies above 20 shows by 2020. Being a central agency to execute these shows, we are directly or indirectly installing shows in different states.
As a premier SEL (Son et Lumiere) organisation in the country, we have the responsibility to execute these shows across the country. Previously, there were limited agencies in the country for executing these shows. Now we have framed a panel of 19 agencies for best quality and varieties of the shows.
How is your partnership with state governments?
We are in regular touch with all the state governments for mounting the sound and light shows or any creative works of this nature. Almost in every state, we have come up with ideas to boost tourism. Take Andaman and Nicobar Island, for instance, two projects are already running there in a small area like that one in Cellular Jail and the other one is on Ross Island. I can proudly say that prime minister mentioned about our Cellular Jail show in ‘Mann Ki Baat’.
Under the new Swadesh Darshan and Prasad scheme of the central government, Union has invited proposal from every state in the range of Rs 250 crores to boost tourism.
Since we are talking about state governments; I would like to ask you about Jammu and Kashmir. What are we doing there to boost tourism?
Kashmir is very important for us. In Kashmir, we planned shows in Char Chinar in Dal Lake as well. However, there were a few constraints of connectivity and other things. We took permission from Jammu and Kashmir High Court as well. We are planning some projects in Leh too. For Leh, I have a multi-dimensional show in my mind. We have planned projects in Katra and Bahu Fort as well.
Tell us about the journey of ITDC?
The first sound and light show in Asia was held at Red Fort and was installed by ITDC. The ‘creative’ part was done by famous Chetan Anand. The first projection mapping based show at Purana Quila is also done by ITDC, it is surely worth watching. Presently, a new technology of multi-language in headphone system has also been introduced in the sound and light show at Konark Sun Temple, Odisha which is going to be by ready this week. Recalling my journey, I remember earlier private sector didn’t consider this as an industry but now the viewpoint has changed.
Which according to you were the toughest projects?
A)We have executed the show in very tough areas like Port Blair, Andaman & Nicobar where transport by road, rail etc is not possible. The show in Ross Island where the only means to reach the site is by boat created many hurdles in completion of the project. The equipment installed is treated keeping in mind the saline environment of the location. Shows installed recently are- SEL show at Ross Island, SEL show at Dhauli in Odisha, Kanke Dam in Ranchi and SEL show at Deoghar. Illumination is also getting momentum. Now-a-days, we are also offering fountain, projection on water screen, bridge lighting and multidimensional shows.
Have partially kept monuments been an impediment for sound and light show?
For proper restoration of any monument, proper knowledge is necessary. If the monument was built with lime, we have to use lime for re-construction. So, upkeep of monuments is not that easy. Further, the agencies are limited for this. To give you a better explanation, let me give you the example of Nalanda University. Today, there are 32 villages over the area where Nalanda University was actually situated. Till now, the government has acquired 11 of them. So, things are a bit complicated.
How big is this industry in terms of monetary value?
If you sum up everything for a year we can put up a value of more than Rs 250 crores per annum for this segment. Today, we do almost 10 shows every year.
How does ITDC promote tourism through light and sound shows?
The basic purpose of putting the SEL shows is to educate, to entertain and make the destination interesting which indirectly helps the economic growth of the destination. School children should come to sound and light shows. This will help them understand history and they can write projects on this in their vacations. The basic idea of sound and light show is to bring history alive.
Are all the projects centrally funded or state governments also chip in?
Basically, all the projects are centrally funded. The government has also sanctioned money for the maintenance of light and sound show. So, every state government must avail the opportunity.
Tell us the major achievements of the government in promoting tourism?
There are schemes like circuit tourism, destination tourism, and rural tourism. I would like to quote the name of Amitabh Kant, CEO Niti Aayog whom I admire very much. Earlier, he was our Chairman and Joint Secretary (Ministry of Tourism) as well. I had the opportunity to work with him very closely. His contribution has been tremendous. Earlier, there were just two private agencies for this work but today, I can take pride in saying that we have now as many as 19 agencies.
How do you wish to boost rural tourism in the country?
Rural tourism has a lot of potential. When you go to meet your grandparents in vacations, even that is rural tourism. India has got a rich culture; unless you go to the rural areas, you cannot acknowledge the culture. Today, the rural tourism has taken a commercial shape. The schemes are really good; you can take the example of Khajuraho fest and Surajkund Mela. Rural tourism also has the potential to stop urban migration as it can provide them employment in their native village.
How can tourism contribute to employment generation?
Tourism can play a crucial role in this area. Any money put in tourism sector can deploy more number of people than any other industry. I remember we were about to start a project in Arunachal Pradesh in an area of rough terrain when I went there to check the progress of the project, I saw business flourishing there even before the completion of our project. If people know there is a government project coming at some place, even private investors utilise that space.
How do you add to the entertainment value of sound and light show?
I take care of my product. I do a regular check of the shows we do. I stay in constant touch with state governments. Celebrities like Amitabh Bachchan, Kabir Bedi, Shabana Azmi, Gulzar, and late Om Puri are some notable names that came forward to lend their voices for the shows. So, this always attracts a huge number of masses. Our show at Red Fort has original voices of Mahatma Gandhi, Subhash Chandra Bose, and Jawahar Lal Nehru which have been taken from the archives. So, the Indian-ness remains intact in our shows. Even foreign tourists flock to our shows.
In times of movies and smartphones, how does sound and light show remain relevant?
Whenever there is a guest at my home, I take him/her to sound and light shows in spite of going to a movie hall. If the youths also follow this, it will be an infotainment package for them. Not only, will they enjoy but also get to know the rich heritage of our country. Further, one gets to see the monument as well. The monument is all lit-up, it’s an amazing experience. The good part being, a person of any age is able to relate to it.