Union Budget 2024: Projects for port connectivity, tourism infra will be taken up on Lakshadweep, other islands

The mention of Lakshadweep by the Finance Minister is significant because Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited the island on 4 January.

BySouth First Desk

Published Feb 01, 2024 | 2:19 PMUpdatedFeb 01, 2024 | 2:19 PM


Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday, 1 February, said projects for port connectivity, tourism infrastructure and amenities will be taken up “on our islands, including Lakshadweep” to address the “emerging fervour” for domestic tourism in the country.

While presenting the interim Union Budget, she also said “Our economic strength has made the country an attractive destination for business and conference tourism”.

The Finance Minister mentioning Lakshadweep is to be noted considering the row over the prime minister’s visit to the island and subsequent controversy of the Maldivian now suspended minister’s remarks in early January.

Also Read: Union Budget 2024: Sitharaman hikes capital spend, trims deficit for next fiscal; tax rates unchanged

Development of tourism centres

Sitharaman, in her budget speech, said the Indian middle class also now “aspires to travel and explore”. Tourism, including spiritual tourism, has tremendous opportunities for local entrepreneurship, she added.

“States will be encouraged to take up comprehensive development of iconic tourist centres, branding and marketing them at global scale. A framework for rating of the centres based on quality of facilities and services will be established,” the Finance Minister said.

Long-term interest-free loans will be provided to states for financing such development on matching basis, she added.

“To address the emerging fervour for domestic tourism, projects for port connectivity, tourism infrastructure and amenities will be taken up on our islands, including Lakshadweep. This will help in generating employment also,” the Union minister said.

“The success of organising G-20 Summit meets at 60 places presented the diversity of India to a global audience,” Sitharaman said.

Lakshadweep: Maldivian minister’s offensive remark against Modi sparks global interest in archipelago

Lakshwadeep row

The mention of Lakshadweep by the Finance Minister is significant because Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited the island on 4 January. He had tried snorkelling and said Lakshadweep has to be on the list of visits for those who wish to embrace the adventurer in them.

A row erupted on social media when a minister and some other leaders in the Maldives used derogatory remarks against Prime Minister Modi after he posted a video of him on a pristine beach in Lakshadweep.

Suspended Maldivian Minister Mariyam Shiuna made the derogatory comment on X — which she later deleted — after photographs of Prime Minister Modi’s Lakshadweep visit had gone viral on social media.

Following this, several Indians and tour operators cancelled their plans to visit the Maldives, which has tilted towards China and away from India under its new President Mohamed Muizzu.

The Maldivian government was quick to denounce and distance itself from Shiuna’s statement and suspended her along with two other ministers, Malsha Shareef and Mahzoom Majid, for the offensive remark.

However, enough harm has been done by then, with celebrities, including actors Akshay Kumar, Salman Khan, and John Abraham, appealing to the people to explore Indian islands like Lakshadweep, which currently has bare minimum connectivity, modest accommodations, and minimal recreational facilities.

Tourism in Lakshadweep

The unprecedented kind of promotion of Lakshadweep came amidst reports of the Union government planning to open the cluster of islands to large-scale beach tourism and infrastructure development, involving top corporate companies and tourism promoters.

For the past three years, the Union Home Ministry and NITI Aayog have been mulling an ambitious tourism project in Lakshadweep that involves the construction of beach and water villas offering 370 rooms, to change the tourism face of the archipelago.

Several islanders South First earlier contacted said they are confused about the proposed tourism development, since at one level, it would invite more visitors, and at another level, it would turn disastrous to the region’s extremely fragile coastal ecology.

Lok Sabha member Muhammad Faizal also told South First that he is happy over Modi’s visit to the islands and the worldwide attention it has now created in favour of Lakshadweep.

“The controversies, too, are helping us achieve due recognition we have been demanding for a long time. Everyone now acknowledges that Lakshadweep is a little-known location that fellow Indians are yet to explore,” he said.

He also wondered why the Maldives should feel insecure when the Indian prime minister boasts of the tourism advantages of a specific part in his country.

Faizal wanted the government to evolve an exclusive tourism masterplan for Lakshadweep, which must also consider livelihood and marine environmental protection.

(With PTI inputs)