Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Every Project Needs Gestation Period: Abrahum Varickamakal

Every Project Needs Gestation Period: Abrahum Varickamakal

By Zubair Ahmed

He believes in the document called "Tourism Policy" and holds the people behind it with high regards. Abrahum Varickamakal, Secretary Tourism bulldozes all questions about the failure of the department in achieving the targets. He reels out the constraints, the possibilities and expects a major facelift, once the entertainment hub in Viper happens. Excerpts from an interview with The Light of Andamans:

Most of the short term targets you have set for yourself have been overshot.
It's not true that we have overshot short term targets. Most of the projects are in pipeline. Canopy walk in Chidiya Tapu will happen before March. The Viper project is also in conceptualization stage. The canopy walk project is one of its kind and needs lot of planning. Ours is an eco-fragile environment, where lots of checks and synchronization of various actions needs to take place. The Yatch Marina in Viper Island and the Entertainment Hub will change the face of our Islands. It's a big project. And, all of them need gestation period. It can't happen suddenly and I don't want sudden changes, which will disturb the equilibrium of the place and people.

What is the ruckus about Seaplane? Is it economically viable?
Seaplane was an adventurous step. Once again, it is the first of its kind in India. We had to face a lot of difficulties from procurement to deployment. Pawan Hans ditched us in the middle. We had to reset the agreement with the company Mehair directly, from who we leased the plane. This is the first time; it will see a full season. From November onwards, we are planning to charge full fare. No business makes profit without a gestation period. Even Kerala, Lakshadweep and Goa want to introduce seaplanes. I hope, it will turn economically viable. Moreover, the operational cost of fixed wing aircraft is cheaper than rotary winged ones.

Is Tourism a regulated industry in our Islands? Or is it just spontaneous and unplanned?
See, we have made mistakes. And we have learned from our mistakes. LTC tourism was a huge mistake. We need to study the carrying capacity of tourists in these Islands. An assessment in all aspects needs to be done and we should be well aware about the infrastructure, our capabilities and disabilities and fix an upper limit of tourists for each year. I am working on the draft of Andaman & Nicobar Registration of Tourist Trade Regulation, 2009. Once it comes to force, it will ensure the safety and security of the tourists.

Why the airfare is too high in this sector? Why Administration is not taking up the issue?
The airlines are following the route dispersal guidelines, which mandate them to fly routes like North-east and ANI. If they fly to North-east, their obligation is over. Hence, they avoid this route. Now, we have requested the Ministry for 1% exclusive route dispersal and sought to separate us from the North-east block. Once, it is through, more airlines will fly here and ticket fare will also come down.

What is the status of chartered aircraft in Mainland-Island sector?
The process is over at our end and as the wet lease costs about Rs 157 crores, the matter is pending with Ministry of Civil Aviation. Once the project takes off, the aircraft will ply Daily to Chennai and 4-5 days to Kolkata and 3 days to Vizag. There will be freebies for the Islanders too.

Food Festival was a grand success.
Once again, there was lot of skepticism all around. But, it kicked off well. The experiment worked. It was a well-synchronized event and true to the theme, people loved it. The crowd itself was the proof of its success.

How is the local society responding to tourism here?
There is lot of social corruption here. Due to lack of entertainment facilities, youth tend to move towards crime and anti-social activities. We need to provide evening entertainment for the whole family. Like the food festival, there should be regular place where family with children can visit for good food and cultural activities. The society here is highly tolerant. I want to project the tolerance of the Islands. Actually, it is not mini India, it is the real India. Where there is tolerance, law and order will be there. People don't assert themselves here.
That's true about political autonomy too. Once there is political understanding among the communities, political autonomy will also come.

No comments: