Parliamentary panel raises concerns over slow progress in Tourism Ministry’s PRASHAD scheme

The PRASHAD (Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual Heritage Augmentation Drive) scheme, launched in 2014-15, aimed to boost infrastructure at tourist destinations, particularly religious sites, across the nation.

A recent report by a parliamentary panel has drawn attention to the sluggish pace of progress within the Ministry of Tourism’s PRASHAD scheme. Highlighting significant delays in implementation, the panel’s findings, presented in the Rajya Sabha, have highlighted pressing concerns regarding the scheme’s effectiveness.

The PRASHAD (Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual Heritage Augmentation Drive) scheme, launched in 2014-15, aimed to bolster infrastructure at tourist destinations, particularly religious sites, across the nation. However, the panel’s report has revealed that out of the 45 sanctioned projects under the scheme, only 20 have been completed to date. This disparity indicates a notable lag in execution, with nine projects still pending completion and 16 projects yet to be initiated despite the scheme being active for several years.

Of particular concern is the observation that all projects, whether completed or ongoing, have faced delays of at least one year. Notably, some projects, such as the development of Mathura-Vrindavan in Uttar Pradesh and Vishnupad Temple in Gaya, Bihar, have experienced delays of up to four years, exacerbating inefficiencies within the scheme.

The panel has also emphasized the critical need for accurate data collection within the tourism sector. It has urged the Ministry of Tourism to develop its mechanism for gathering information on both foreign and domestic tourist arrivals. Furthermore, the panel has stressed the importance of ensuring data authenticity before its publication, asserting that the ministry must verify the correctness of the data to maintain public trust.

In addition to addressing challenges within the PRASHAD scheme, the panel has expressed dismay over the government’s delay in approving proposals for 17 iconic destinations. It has urged prompt action on these proposals to expedite tourism development efforts nationwide.

Despite these setbacks, the Ministry of Tourism has undertaken efforts to enhance tourism statistics collection through the development of a Standard Tourism Methodology aligned with UNWTO guidelines. However, the panel has lamented the absence of a separate budget allocation for major events like the G20 summit, which could significantly impact Indian tourism.

Moreover, concerns have been raised about the closure of overseas promotion offices and the need for alternative methods to effectively promote tourism. The panel has urged the ministry to capitalize on opportunities presented by the G20 meetings and the ‘Visit India’ campaign while ensuring the formulation of a robust overseas promotion roadmap.

While acknowledging the ministry’s efforts to establish tourist police units in select destinations, the panel has noted that only 14 states have deployed tourist police thus far.

It has called upon the ministry to continue advocating for the creation and deployment of tourist police units across all states and union territories to enhance tourist safety and experience.