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Tourism: As the Maldives loses Indian visitors, Lakshadweep to get Rs. 3,600 crores for infra upgradation

Tourism: As the Maldives loses Indian visitors, Lakshadweep to get Rs. 3,600 crores for infra upgradation

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Virendra Pandit 

 

New Delhi: Nearly a month after Prime Minister Narendra Modi highlighted India’s immense tourism potential and urged tourists to visit Lakshadweep Islands—which irritated the pro-Chinese Mohamed Muizzu government in neighboring Maldives—the government has earmarked Rs. 3,600 crores for the development and upgradation of tourism infrastructure in the archipelago known for its pristine scenic beauty.

The Lakshadweep Islands, with a total area of 32 square km, are sandwiched between the Arabian Sea to the west and the Lakshadweep Sea to the east. These islands are located about 220–440 km off the Kerala coast in the Arabian Sea. It is a tropical archipelago of 36 atolls and coral reefs in the Lakshadweep Sea. Not all of the islands are inhabited, and only a few are open to permit-carrying visitors so far.

Now, the government has chalked out a comprehensive Rs 3,600 crore infrastructure upgrade plan to transform the islands into a premier tourist destination. It will encompass the development of port facilities, peripheral roads, beachfront amenities, and other critical infrastructure projects, the media reported.

These plans include the development of port facilities at Androth, Kalpeni, and Kadamat islands, along with the construction of beachfront and peripheral roads at strategic locations such as Kadamat Island (East), Agatti Island (East), and Kavaratti Island. These initiatives are part of a larger effort to enhance connectivity and tourism infrastructure across the 36 islands of Lakshadweep.

Funding for these projects will be sourced from the Sagarmala scheme, which focuses on port-led development initiatives. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, while presenting the Interim Union Budget 2024, highlighted the importance of investing in port connectivity and tourism infrastructure, particularly on islands like Lakshadweep, to cater to the growing demand for domestic tourism in the country.

Highlighting the growing aspirations of the Indian middle class for travel and exploration, she emphasized the need to encourage local entrepreneurship in tourism, including spiritual tourism, and announced plans to develop iconic tourist centers with global branding and marketing.

To support the development of tourism infrastructure, the government plans to offer long-term interest-free loans to states on a matching basis. This initiative aims to generate employment opportunities and foster economic growth while catering to the rising demand for domestic tourism.

The mention of Lakshadweep in Sitharaman’s budget speech holds significance, especially after PM Modi’s visit to the island on January 4. During his visit, Prime Minister Modi emphasized the tourism potential of Lakshadweep and its appeal to adventure enthusiasts, showcasing his own experience with activities like snorkeling.

However, the island’s prominence also stirred controversy when some Maldividian ministers and leaders blurted out derogatory remarks against PM Modi after he shared a video of his visit to a pristine beach in Lakshadweep. Subsequently, several Indians and tour operators canceled their plans to visit the Maldives, leading to a shift in tourism preferences.

 

 

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