Development of tourism on top priority: LG

Gala ITF 2017 gets underway
Report by: 
Agencies
Port Blair
7 Jan 2017
The much-awaited annual extravaganza ‘Island Tourism Festival’ – 2017 got underway with its inauguration by the Lt. Governor, A&N Islands, Prof. Jagdish Mukhi at the ITF Ground here on Friday. The Member of Parliament, Mr Bishnu Pada Ray and the Chief Secretary, A&N Administration, Mr Anindo Majumdar were the guests of honour on the occasion. Smt. Rupa Ray, Adhyaksh, ZPSA, Mr Jaydeep Kumar Dey, Chairman, PBMC, Mr B. Eswar Rao, Chairperson, UTCPCR, Smt. Kiran Tigga, Mr Anurag Mishra, Director, Song and Drama Division, Govt. of India also attended the inaugural ceremony. This year, the ten-day festival will be held up to January 15.
Wishing the Islanders a prosperous year ahead, Lt. Governor, addressing a large gathering, expressed his happiness to be a part of the ITF, and said, the festival aims at bringing together different cultural groups from the East Zone Cultural Centre, South Zone Cultural Centre, North Central Zone Cultural Centre, Song and Drama Division of Govt. of India and the local cultural groups where they can exchange their cultural ideas and come to the mainstream.
Acknowledging that the Island Tourism Festival is also an important event for boosting tourism in the Islands, the Lt. Governor outlined the schemes and programmes of the Central Government like ‘Swadesh Darshan Yojana’ under which Rs.42.18 crore has been sanctioned for boosting tourism activities in A&N Islands. About Rs.8.5 crore will be spent for preservation and upgradation of various facilities in the National Memorial Cellular Jail. The Light and Sound Show of the Cellular Jail is also being upgraded and modified   under this scheme, he said.
The A&N Administration has also identified eight beaches in different Islands which will be developed under this scheme. These beaches include Kalapathar and Elephant beaches in Havelock, Bharatpur and Laxmanpur beaches in Neil Island, Balu Dera Beach in Baratang, Ross and Smith beach in Diglipur, Lalaji Bay in Long Island, said the Lt. Governor. He also informed that steps are also being taken for holistic development of the five Islands selected by NITI Aayog viz. Ross & Smith, Avis Island, Long Island and Little Andaman.
With a view to provide better entertainment to tourists during evening hours, a world-class laser show is being initiated at the Radha Nagar Beach at Havelock. Similarly, beautiful tent accommodations, with most modern facilities are ready at Lalaji Bay at Long Island to attract tourists while other lands belonging to ANIIDCO at Havelock, Neil Island and Little Andaman will also be used for providing such tent accommodations, he said adding that this will be important to handle the expected 25% growth in arrival of tourists in the next year.
The Lt. Governor also mentioned that besides scuba diving activities, submersible water scooter will be started in the Isles soon. He stated that A&N Administration proposes to reintroduce services of Sea Plane in the Islands under PPP mode, on commercial basis, for which a meeting with the CMD of Pawan Hans Ltd. has already been held.
The Lt. Governor stated that besides adding ships for improving inter-island connectivity, floating hotels will also be introduced in these Islands soon. He said, the Administration is committed to develop tourism of the Islands on top priority basis and aims at developing A&N Islands as an all season tourist destination where tourists can come throughout the year. Complementing the cleanliness being maintained in these Islands, the Lt. Governor called upon all the Islanders as well as tourists to keep these Islands spic and span. The Lt. Governor witnessed the cultural programme and also visited the stalls on the occasion.
Stating that a bright future awaits the Islanders, the Member of Parliament, Shri Bishnu Pada Ray in his address said that under the leadership of Lt. Governor, Prof. Jagdish Mukhi, the Islands are moving towards further progress. He informed the gathering that the OFC project could be materialized due to continuous efforts of the Lt. Governor and the Govt. of India sanctioned the Rs.1100 crore project in September 2016. He also mentioned that the health facilities in the Islands are also being improved while the PBMC will get Rs.8 crore annually for carrying out it projects, said the Member of Parliament also hailing the Lt. Governor for banning tobacco and its allied products in the Islands from October 2, 2016 onwards and also for extending compensations to the genuine cases within 48 hours. The Member of Parliament mentioned that the tendering process for bridge between Uttara to Gandhi Jetty have been completed while the tendering process for national highway will be completed by January 2017. He also informed that roads of Neil and Havelock Islands now have been declared as National Highway. The APWD will be awarded all works related to construction and repair of NH, said the MP. He also mentioned that as per instructions of NITI Aayog, the Zilla Parishad has prepared a draft action plan for 15 year vision and 3 year action plan for A&N Islands.
Speaking on the occasion, the Chief Secretary, Shri Anindo Majumdar said that Island Tourism Festival is a mega cultural event organized in the Islands every year showcasing the composite culture of the Isles which is unique in itself, recollecting how the festival took birth as ‘Apna Utsav’ during 1980s.  He said, the unique feature of this year’s festival is the participation of troupe from Kazakhstan. He also mentioned that as part of the ITF, cultural performances will be presented throughout the Islands during the 10 days. 
The ITF will boost tourism in the Islands considerably, he said adding that the number of tourists visiting the Islands has crossed 4 lakh during 2016 and this, he felt, is a significant achievement. He said, the A&N Administration is a facilitator and the Tourism Department is proactive in its efforts to increase the tourist inflow into the Islands. Boosting the tourism in the Islands, is a truly collaborative effort, the Chief Secretary said. During the ten-day festival, artists from different parts of the Islands as well as from the mainland will be performing, he said urging one and all to enjoy the mega event.
Welcoming the gathering, the Secretary (Tourism), Smt. Ankita Mishra Bundela said, varied and vibrant art forms will be presented by the artists during the festival which rejuvenates the spirit of ‘Ek Bharat Shresta Bharat’. She said, apart from participation of artists from various cultural troupes from mainland, about 1000 local artists from 58 cultural groups have been given the opportunity to participate in the event. The festival is truly dedicated to the spirit of unity & diversity, she said.  The Director (Tourism), Mr Amit Anand proposed the vote of thanks.