C T Ravi: Man On A Mission To Supercharge Karnataka Tourism | Swarajya Conversations

Namaskara Welcome to Swarajya Conversations. The feel is festive in the country what with Dussera just round the corner. And in Karnataka all roads lead to Mysuru for the naada habba or the state festival as Mysuru Dasara is called. Mysuru Dasara offers a glimpse into all that the state has to offer the majestic parade of the tall tuskers the cultural extravaganza and the grandeur of heritage. But there is so much more to this state. Like the state anthem describes it as ‘sundara nadivanagala naade’ it has umpteen amount of flora and fauna be it the Bandipura tiger reserves, the Ranganthittu Bird sanctuary or as the poet says ‘jaya hai rasarushigala beedey’ it has upteen number of temples and mathas and is a hub for religious tourism. But a lot of this doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. Rather the tourism potential of this state has been left untapped. To discuss this and a lot more we have with us today, Minister for Culture, Tourism and Kannada, Shri C T Ravi. who will talk to us about all these issues we have just mentioned and more. Welcome Sir Namaskara The state is dealing with conditions of drought while the other half is yet to recover from the floods. It is not a great time to have inherited this ministry. but, what do you intend to do…be it in Hampi, Badami, Areas like Madikeri, your hometown Chikamagalur, have all been affected by floods. How are you looking to reinstate these places and kick-start activity in these tourist areas? We cant prevent natural calamities. But we can take measures to reduce the impact and rebuild the places. This time around the floods in North Karnataka happened mainly because of the heavy rainfall in Maharashtra. In Malnad, landslides have happened because of heavy rainfall in a short period of time. But since this is seasonal, there isn’t like a prolonged long term impact atleast on the tourist destinations. There has been no major effect on our tourist destinations . They are protected. Some spaces like the Ballala Rayana Durga, or excepting Coorg and Kuduremukha regions, may be, the rest of the regions have not been affected so much. But tourism is a long term plan and so we will rebuild these spaces successfully. Tourism generally doesn’t feature among the top priorities for any state and understandably so but Karnataka’s tourism potential is still latent and much be done about making it more attractive to tourists. In terms of connectivity and building awareness and the like. How do you plan to go about it? And is there a new tourism policy that would address these issues? What I have in mind is, we need to make a comprehensive tourism plan for Karnataka as to what needs to be done. I have already visited 6-7 districts and in the next two months will visit all the districts of the state and review. What we have done firstly is identify the tourist spots. So in that process we have identified that we have over 1500 heritage spots both state and central heritage sites. Alongiwth that we have identified 41 tourism circles 319 important sites have been marked Firstly we are a secured state. Compared to many other states we are a very safe and secure state. Any tourist first and formost thinks about safety Secondly connectivity All our tourism circuits we need to ensure connectivity Thirdly hospitality we need to check if there are different range of accommodation facilities be they budget hotels or star ones we need to look at the hospitality Fourthly, cleanliness and providing basic amenities Fifth, information about these places. We need to update the information. Also, those who come here seek experiences. Experience tourism has greater demand today. Unlike in the past when people came here mainly for religious and temple tourism. But then adventure tourism happened, and so on and with changing times, tourism is also transforming. For instance, people come seeking experiences say a village experience is what they are seeking. So we have to provide these experiences. So on a trial basis, this Dasara, we have thought of introducing agricultural traditions or experience to visitors to give them a village experience. Similarly we look to identifying such options in all the parts of the state and offer a village experience to tourists identify and register houses and families who can be made part of this programme, train them to offer native food, native folk songs, and the like a complete village experience to tourists not create any of this artificially but offer an organic one. we are thinking on these lines. Also, we are a state with a very rich cultural heritage the cultural experience that Coorg offers for instance is completely different from what you will get in Mysuru or Mandya, while the coast has a totally differnet cultural experience to offer. Be it North Karnataka, or Kalyana Karnataka or central Karnataka the experiences are completely different be it in food, lifestyle, cultural heritage, folklore, or language. Linguistically too, while Uttara Karnataka offers one experience. Kodagu has are bhaashe speakers who you will only find in Kodagu and nearby areas like Sullya. The experience offered by the Kannada of Kundapura is completely different from that of Mandya For instance, in Mandya Kannada it is difficult to figure out if someone is abusing you or praising you This kind of multitude of experiences is what we want to offer to people and are planning for the same. If we market and promote this right, we do not need to create anything artificial. If we just provide good information, hospitality, atmosphere and promote it right, our tourism can do ten times better than what we have right now. Talking of information, firstly involving stake holders is important it is not possible to develop without involving them Why not create a system where you can involve them, also may be as guides or trained personnel ? Surely we should involve the locals but not in a way that it leads to creation of slums around these sites. I had been to Manikyadhara, it falls in my district. Despite having been born and grown up there, it is very rare that we go there. But when I went there recently I saw a line of shops that are there have created a slum, this should not happen. We need to create a model, and then train the locals and may be accommodate them in that setup. If we let slums rise, it will be counter productivity. It is the same for Hampi. Hampi is our pride. The story of Hampi gives goosebumps. Anyone who visits Hampi feels proud about our ‘ourness’ and our culture. But it also awakens and alerts us. When it is the question of such a site, we need to plan how we can go about how it can be showcased best. We should involve the locals, but train them in such a way that they can facilitate tourism there. A native market should be setup. But also see that there is no exploitation. Atithi devo bhava is what we believe in. And so, we should ensure we look to hosting tourists with the same feeling. This will go a long way in inducing a positive feeling among tourists and they would want to visit us again. People from whichever part of the world they be, should feel like coming back to hampi, over and over again. This is the kind of environment we need to create and we look forward to work in this direction. A lot of international scholars, photographers have had to experience a lot of difficulties. What can be done to ease the rut of permissions which is currently very bureaucratic Jungle Lodges concept for instance is something unique we have. Now when we get international tourists there, they will have to follow rules and regulations. Just because they have permissions, they can’t take it for granted. We do permit and facilitate travel and our KSTDC and the like are here to facilitate tourism. But in comparison to many we are blessed to have everything in Karnataka. May be except for snow, we have it all here. That too if you go to Himavat Swamy Betta you get a feel of what it is to be in a snow clad mountain top. Not of the Himalayan range may be but the experience is no less. And what we have as cultural heritage and the kind of cultured and ‘susamskrata’ people only facilitates tourism. Development is one thing but creating awareness about it – for instance, earlier people came having read books, brochures and the like. But today it is all digital so so our tourism website developing the state tourism website where people can just go and access the information and are lured to come and visit the state. What kind of action is being taken for that? We will update the tourism information centres. Another thing on the cards is, creating a information portal like WIkepedia, which can be updated by locals which has the history of the place and the like. Also, since I also have the charge of the culture ministry, we are planning this new project of documenting the history the social background and culture of every village. This too shall be available online and on the website. In one years time, do question me. That time you will know if we have done any work or not. I will then talk with results. Right now I am studying my department comparing it to other states in the country, and discussing with various experts about how we can bring our state tourism to an international level. This is the study level, then comes the planning stage followed by execution. Right now, for the next two months, I will focus on studying. Then we will plan with various stakeholders and experts and after we have perfected this plan of action get to executing it. Like you rightly said, budget allocation for tourism isn’t high. Because the priority sectors for a government are different. For a government, building a home for a poor man, providing drinking water, health facilities is priority, for instance with the flood situation the priority in construction of homes. But I have the confidence, that we can develop a PPP model, we can try for development through the CSR funds of corporates. A few good corporates can be involved and asked to adopt these heritage sites. Like animals and wildlife is adopted, we can seek their involvement by asking these corporates and businesses to adopt these sites. Someone would have gone from a small town and made it big. We can ask them to develop the heritage sites back in their hometowns and ask them to get involved in the development tasks of their own towns. Policy and plans will be ours, and this is a a win-win situation. As this will also bring indirect taxes, generate more jobs as well as ensuring the capital that they invest in these ventures does bear them some fruit. We are planning in this direction. For we are not yet in a stage where the government can do everything on its own. Coming back to information, if we have to talk about setting the narrative right. At a lot of places, information at the sites on plaques and the like is
restricted to ‘ who built it when’ but the story of its destruction and desecration stays untold. There is an adage ‘One who doesn’t know history cannot make history’. Only if one knows his history can he make history. Given this outlook, it is important that the people of today know the true history of a place the real truth not the exaggerated one. For instance with the same fervour that we say ‘Tippu Sulthan fought against the British’, with the same fervour we should tell how Tippu’s father Hyder Ali invaded the state of Mysore. The stories of the atrocities that took place be it in Malabar, in Kodagu or in Mangalore under his reign, should be told. So should the story of how in his rule he had Persian replace Kannada as the administrative language. History should tell the real story and in that case if some ‘masala’ or additions be made to those events which we can take pride in, it is not wrong. But additions to those stories that make us bow our heads in shame should be voided. Our historical tales should fill us with pride. As important it is for our countrymen to know of the grandeur and glory of Vijayanagara, they should also know what led to the destruction of Vijayanagara. Because, should a similar situation arise in the future, one should be ready to face it. How Mayura Sharma became Mayura Verma, we need to tell these tales. Of how a swabhimani’ young man built the Kadamba Empire. Kempegowda’s foresight and vision and how he built the city of Bengaluru should be told. The real and true tales of history must be told. The contributions of the Bahamani sultans should be spoken about, so should his atrocities. Be it the Marathas or the Chalukyas, Hoysalas. The stories of the Hoysala empire gives goosebumps.. Who will share the history of the Chalukyas? From the shatavahanas ..Our state has contributed from the stone age to today’s IT BT age.. these stories have to be told. How do you intend to tell these? Once we get the basics right, may be through sound and light shows. For instance, the story of the stone fort of Chitradurga gained popularity only after Ta Ra Su’s novel Durgastmana. It became a matter of pride. The tale of Onake obavva’s bravery, of how a daughter of this state, a dalit girl child, wielded the staff and stood in defence of this land is one that infuses pride at all times. Such tales may be we can tell them through sound and light shows, or in other forms, we will think about it. You have mentioned the need to highlight different regions. I come from the coast. And would like to know what plans to you have for the same. See, for instance, our Kambala itself, I haven’t seen it anywhere. We can make it a world attraction. Our Yakshagana itself can be offered as an experience to international tourists… for instance, clicking a picture with those dressed up as Yakshagana characters can be one such. We should work around the folk culture we have. Like I was telling you about the fisherfolk. We should take them to a fisherman’s house, offer fishing lessons, and cooking seafood as an experience. In this way, we can create various experiences. There are ways to do as many things as we can think of. We can explore and attract tourists in so many ways and we will do it. The museums in the state are not in a great estate. The folk museum in Mysore, for example, is in tatters. Given that museums provide access to our past, is there any plan to fix the museums? Yes, there are issues. We will have to involve experts and specialists, provide training to the existing workforce and address these issues. We have plans to setup international exhibition centres for instance in places like Mangalore, Mysore, Hubli. Plus we can have local museums that showcase the local and regional culture and heritage. You can have a Malnad museum in Shivamogga, Chikamagaluru, Similarly on the coast, you can have a Karavali musuem showcasing the culture and artefacts of the region. There are as many opportunities as many ideas to work in this field. Talking of ideas, Union Home Minister Amit Shah proposed this idea of Hindi as a unifying language. As the Kannada minister what would your views be? See, he didn’t propose Hindi in place of Kannada or in place of Tamil. As a communication language in the country, it is good if we have Hindi is what he has said. There is a reason for it too. Forty five percent people in the country naturally know Hindi. The other 55 per cent may not know it. But like we have English as an international communication language, why not have a national communication language? We should have one of our own, right? It is for this reason he said it. It is not against any language Amit Shah’s mother tongue isn’t Hindi, it is Gujarati. Even Mahatma Gandhi had said this and his mother tongue was not Hindi. And this idea hasn’t been proposed by Amit Shah alone. The same was espoused by Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel, as well as Ram Manohar Lohia. Jawahar Lal Nehru too did voice the same thoughts as did P Chidambaram. But if they say it, it is not a dispute. A few people with a destructive mentality think that they will turn activists by just protesting against Hindi. But there is no need to protest. Let us protect ‘ourness’, let us safeguard Kannada and do whatever needs to be done to promote it. But at the same time, what is wrong if we acquire and accept Hindi as a communicative language in the country. I do not see anything wrong with it. When we have no aversion towards English, why have it towards Hindi? Does anyone say it is wrong to learn English? Similarly, why not learn Hindi? Let us passionately learn Kannada but let English and Hindi too stay. For a Kannadiga, if he knows Hindi also well, he can be a national leader. Like English brings him opportunities at the national and international level, so will acquiring Hindi. He spoke in this light and I take it positively. As far as those who take it negatively, those are the kinds who have always taken every such move negatively. I see it as a positive action though. You have spoken about safeguarding and promoting Kannada. But the Kannada and Culture website is in such a sorry state. There is nothing even for those who know Kannada. It looks more like a booking site for the various auditoriums in the state. When your government is all for Digital India, what would you have to say about this? We need to update it. Being the technology hub that Bengaluru is, if we do not use technology right, who else will? We have to update it. We are thinking about it and will change its form and format completely. Coming back to Mysuru since Dasara is just ten days away, Mysuru can be developed as a heritage city. May be modelled on the lines of a Bali, which has a similar feel with almost everything having a heritage value. Any plans to do this. Also, will we look forward to getting Dasara UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage tag which the Kumbh mela has. There are more than 180 heritage buildings in Mysuru, some of which are in good shape, some of which are dilapidated. We have just discussed the same in the cabinet meeting a few days back. So, we will have to plan the restoration and maintenance of these structures while ensuring their original heritage character is kept intact. The other thing we have on mind is to give a heritage look to some of the entry points to the Mysore palace the way they were at one point of time. So we are looking to give some spaces the heritage look. Like there is a street in Paris, I guess, which has a heritage look the spaces inside may all be modern but the exteriors have a heritage look and that is what we are thinking about. Also, we have sent a DPR for the Chamundi hill under the Prasadam scheme which is in the stage of being passed. Under the central government’s Swadeshi scheme, we will send a proposal to develop Mysuru as a heritage city which means whoever constructs any building or structure, the exteriors of it will have to have a heritage look. We are thinking on these lines. All these are in the initial stages but the problems appear only at the implementation stage. Ideating is not problematic. As it is not easy to change people as we wish to, but we will plan. Dasara is here. Would you like to invite people for the Naada habba. We have a song “Mysuru dasara, eshtondu sundara”, they say..’eshtu kanidru saaladu’ (no pair of eyes suffice) it is not possible to capture the beauty of Mysuru Dasara So I invite, everyone to come along with with your families and witness Dasara in Mysuru. Dasara should stay in your memory forever. I urge everyone to come witness the grandeur of the Jumbo Savari, and the mighty Mysore palace. We look forward to meeting you, as you said, after a year and hope you are able to see all these plans to you mentioned through. Wish you a successful tenure as the culture and tourism minister. Thank you

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