“To address fervour for domestic tourism, projects for port connectivity, tourism infrastructure, and amenities will be taken up on our islands, including Lakshadweep”, said Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today while delivering the Interim Budget 2024.
After PM Modi’s visit to Lakshadweep and the diplomatic row which followed it, the island has occupied the centre-stage in discussions surrounding tourism in India (and India's neighbourhood). Hence, it was not a surprise when Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman named the islands specifically in her Budget speech.
However, what highlights the importance the government is attaching to development in Lakshadweep is the fact that it was the only Union Territory or state referred to by name in her speech.
The Lakshadweep Group comprising 10 inhabited and 26 uninhabited islands is of strategic importance to India, owing to its unique geographical placement in Arabian Sea.
Thus developing a thriving tourism sector on the islands is not only required from an economic point of view but increasing Indian footfalls on Lakshadweep is also strategically prudent.
Infrastructure push paving way
Currently, Lakshadweep has only one airport, located in Agatti. With expectations of surge in visitors, the expansion of Agatti runway has been proposed to accomodate bigger planes.
A new airfield has also been proposed by Indian Government on Minicoy Island, 300 km away from Agatti. The airfield will be a joint facility for both civil and military needs. It will accommodate Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 size planes.
Along with tourists, it will also hold facilities for fighter jets and military transport planes. These military facilities will provide India with more vigil on Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean and will also place India in a better position to counter China’s surveillance ships.
Besides, that increased interest in the region has also lead to renewed investment proposals from private sector. The TATA Group has already announced establishment of 85 water villas, 75 beach villas and 60 beachfront villas in Suheli and Kadmat islands.
In Bangram island resort, the capacity has been doubled from 32 rooms to 64 premium rooms. New tent cities are also being developed in Agatti and Karavatti island.
Seamless connectivity in hassle free mode
With infrastructure push, the government is also to increase other provision of other services and facilities like solar plants, faster internet connectivity, desalination plants, bio-toilets and rainwater harvesting among others.
On the regulatory front, authorities have taken steps to make visiting Lakshadweep a seamless affair for tourists. E-permits can now be taken online, rather than through bank challan. Permits are now issued with 24-48 hours. Additionally, the prohibition on tourists visiting certain places has been lifted.
Former Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant confirmed that the government has been working on Lakshadweep for nearly a decade. PM Modi’s visit and push through budgetary policies have now placed Lakshadweep in a uniquely favourable position.
Abhishek is Staff Writer at Swarajya.
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