Mumbai: Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) officials and a delegation of ministers from the state will go on a paid holiday to New York later this month. The MTDC will promote state tourism from Times Square in New York with Rs4 crore of taxpayers’ money.
That’s not all, some members of the delegation will then fly to Canada, citing an invitation for a meeting to discuss a few infrastructure projects.
Minister for tourism Chhagan Bhujbal, state tourism minister Ranjeet Kamble, his personal secretary Kailash Shinde, principal secretary (tourism) Sumeet Malik, MTDC managing
director Jagdish Patil, joint managing director Satish Soni, several other bureaucrats, consultants and MTDC officials will board the plane to New York. Sources in Mantralaya said the Times Square extravaganza has been planned for the third week of September and is expected to last for over four days.
Maharashtrian flavour will be evident during the event. Times Square will be decorated with colourful torans and saffron flags and lavni and koli dance will be performed at the iconic square.
However, events not connected with the state, such as bhangra, have also been planned. Singer Mika Singh will do the honours.
Such events which take the focus away from Maharashtra’s rich culture and heritage are being criticised. “Instead of promoting Diwali there, why are we not promoting Ganpati, which is the biggest festival of the state?” lamented a senior official of the tourism ministry.
Another said: “It is a complete waste of public money. Times Square is such a massive venue that our tourism promotion will hardly get noticed. It will happen in one small corner and only a few screens have been booked for promotion. Also, apart from some key people, there is no need to take along such a large delegation, people who will fun at the expense of the public.”
MTDC, however, says the trip was planned keeping the future in mind.
“The delegation also includes officials from the chief minister’s office. This trip will help them understand and learn things from foreign countries. Eventually, it will be beneficial in improving tourism in the state. It is not a waste of money,” Kishori Gadre, general manager of MTDC, told dna. “When people in important positions and our ministers go to such events, it helps in highlighting issues and the richness of our state.”
The Times Square event, scheduled to be held a month prior to Diwali, will be used as a platform to attract international travellers to Maharashtra. It will give foreign tourists ample time to plan their visit to the state for the festival of lights or for the year-end.
Some officials will travel from New York to Canada and join Shamal Mukherjee, secretary, public works department, there. “I will be going directly from Mumbai to Canada for an infrastructure-related meeting,” he said.
Jagdish Patil and Satish Soni did not respond to dna’s phone calls.
The Times Square, located in the upmarket Manhattan area of New York, is a major commercial and pedestrian intersection.
According to estimates, it is the most-visited tourist spot in the world with more than 40 million people passing through it every year.