Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Would it be Ever Possible for Ranchi to be in the Tourist Map of India ?
It is almost going to be two years that I made Ranchi, the capital city of Jharkhand my temporary home after having spend just over three decades in the steel city of Bhilai near Raipur, the capital city of Chhattisgarh.
The major part of my life so far has been outside my home state, Kerala, the small south Indian state on the Malabar Coast of the Indian sub continent.
All these states have immense potential for developing tourism, the only mechanism by which human beings can be trained to reduce suspicion and animosity against each other.
My home state Kerala has done it in the last couple of decades. Keralites should be thankful to all those administrators, businessmen and individuals who contributed to make it possible. Kudos to the one who invented the phrase ' God's own country ' for Kerala as a tourism promotion caption for official Kerala Tourism.
Seeing the success of Kerala in Tourism, I remember the first Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh trying to do some thing serious for his state and his enthusiasm in getting the IAS officer responsible for managing Kerala Tourism in the formative years on deputation to his state.
Though Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand have much potential for tourism, unlike Kerala they have got much constraints for making tourism a significant thing. The major constraint is their wider land area making the travel distances much greater between places as compared to Kerala and the lack of security on the roads due to the recent resurgence of various militant political groups at war with the government machinery. The other constraint would be perhaps the shortage of leadership both in the government and the private sector to make any significant momentum so that the activities could be raised above the threshold of initial inertia.
However, Ranchi has a potential for rapid growth in tourism sector, provided the government is a bit more pro-active. The state government of Jharkhand of late has started acting, as can be seen from the official website of the Jharkhand tourism department, but what they need to do initially should be more to attract people to the state. Both domestic and foreign tourists should feel comfortable to visit the state without hassles or fear.
Jharkhand's capital, Ranchi has the reputation of being known as a ' hill station' though there are no high hills or mountains in the near vicinity. This designation perhaps came from the fact that it is an elevated region with a mean elevation at 650 M from sea level as compared to the level of 300 M for the adjoining regions. Due to this there are a number of water falls within comfortable driving distances from Ranchi, making it to be known as the city of waterfalls.
I could visit Hundroo Falls, Johnah Falls, Sita Falls, Dasham Falls, etc which are within a radius of about 30 km from Ranchi so far. Of these, Dasham Falls, Hundroo and Johnah are really impressive. The facilities that are created by the Jharkhand tourism department are very good. The authorities, of late has taken special attention to make good roads to these sites.
A View of Hundru Falls Ranchi
A View of Jonha Falls Ranchi
A Distant View of Sita Falls Ranchi
A few months ago I got introduced to one Mr P K Choudhury, an enterprising business man from Ranchi, who has a vision to transform this city to tap its tourism potential to the fullest in the coming years. He has been successful to get some support from the state government. Mr Choudhury is an engineer by profession and he has now made his Wheels Travels of Ranchi with the Jharkhand State Tourism Development Corporation in providing tourism packages to tourists who wish to enjoy exotic nature in and around Ranchi. [A small account of my first attempt to explore a few attractive tourism spots around Ranchi with the help of Mr Choudhury can be read online here. I have also provided some photographs taken during this trip and also the mobile phone number of Mr Choudhury here.]
I thought of writing this blog today due to a call made by Mr Choudhury yesterday. He wanted some suggestions for celebrating World Tourism Day 2012 in Ranchi on the 27th September together with the inaugural ceremony at the global level to be held at Maspalomas, Spain under the auspices of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). The theme for this year's WTO deliberations incidentally is : Tourism & Sustainable Energy: Powering Sustainable Development. To be frank, I do not understand much about the link between tourism and sustainable energy, but I do feel that energy plays a key role in developing tourism. Because, the major cost in tourism is cost of travel and travel requires energy, that too petroleum based energy, for the time being.
Mr Choudhury should think of organizing a seminar in Ranchi Hotel where people could talk on this theme for half a day and spend the rest of the time on a monsoon trip to one or two waterfalls near ranchi when the streams are at their full majesty . The bureaucrats from the government and other top officials from the corporates could be called in as delegates to the seminar as well as the short monsoon trip to the nearby falls. Alternatively he should think of organizing drawing and debate competitions for the school children taking the help from some of the reputed schools of Ranchi on this year's theme as mooted by UNWTO.
Though Ranchi has a reasonably good airport , good railway stations and bus stations, the connectivity of Ranchi with the rest of India is not so good. Flights do operate between Kolkatta, Delhi and Mumbai, but the fares are exhorbitantly high for domestic tourists to take advantage. Besides, there are no same day connecting flights from Kolkatta or Delhi for the Ranchi travellers to cities like Trivandrum or Chennai or even the adjoining state capital, Raipur or to the central India's hub city , Nagpur.
Now take the example of the rail connectivity. To the south there is a daily train to Kerala running via Chennai. This train is practically useless for those who wish to use it for travel between Ranchi and Kerala. Firstly, all tickets on this train gets booked by those from East India to travel to reputed hospitals in Tamil Nadu, like the Christian Medical College, Vellore, near Chennai. This train runs practically empty between Chennai and Kerala as the Kerala travellers seldom get their reservations. The railway authorities should think of running daily trains from Jharkhand to Katpadi and make the Kerala train extend upto Trivandrum with enhanced quota of reservations to those travelling beyond Tamil Nadu.
The roads are improving in Jharkhand. However, the interstate travel on road is still not a good proposition due to security concerns. The state government should encourage bus operators to operate more and more buses connecting Ranchi with cities like Raipur, Kolkatta, Patna, Bhubaneshwar, Rourkela, Bilaspur, Varanasi, Kanpur, Allahabad, etc. This should be done with the co-operation of the neighbouring states and it should be ensured that the police and other authorities unnecessarily create problems to the bus operators or the passengers. If needed, the state government should consider substantial road tax concessions to the operators till the traffic gains momentum.
The state can think of setting up a police wing exclusively for security of passengers on road and helping travellers who might get entrapped on road due to vehicle breakdowns, etc. This is very much needed to enhance the confidence of tourists in the state considering the scenario as of now.
Somebody connected to the hotel industry in Ranchi told me recently that the occupancy rate in hotels in Ranchi are too low that they are not getting even the breakeven returns. This is mainly because of the number of rooms increasing many fold in recent years and the demands not rising accordingly. For tourism to flourish, the increase in good hotel rooms is a positive thing. However, getting use of those facilities is another thing. The tourism department needs to be more proactive. It is most unfortunate that a Google search on Ranchi tourism returns with little useful information. Besides, there are no good website which provides all the important information, guidance and tour package that a tourist, both domestic and foreign, looks for.
There could be thousands of people from Ranchi and Jharkhand who are working either abroad or in other Indian cities. They should come forward and discuss about this issue of making their beautiful state a desirable destination not only for them but also for all others from the rest of India and the world.
May I request them to offer their valuable suggestions, so that people like Mr Choudhury and those in the state government could get proper directions to plan the policies and the actions ?
Those who have cherished memories of Ranchi or Jharkhand tour or travel may think of sharing those with their tips, guidance and information on important tourist spots for helping others.
Kerala tourism people may think of diverting some of their tourists to this part through properly designed packages.
Join hands to promote tourism- the only preferrable mechanism to propagate universal love and appreciation of nature and our accomplishments !
[View the linked list of all Blogs of the Author Here ]