Tourists foot-fall in Andamans to go up by 40 per cent within a year: Prof Mukhi

Punjab Update Bureau

Port Blair, May 16: Andaman, the most expressive icon of country’s freedom struggle, is to witness increase in tourists’ foot-fall by about 40 per cent with a year.

This was disclosed here today by the Andaman and Nicobar Lt Governor Prof Jagdish Mukhi, the man with the dedication, mission and vision. Cellular jail, the penal settlement that was the scene of inhuman torture and sufferings of freedom fighters, both during British rule and Japanese occupation, was set up here and it is now a national monument. This monument is now being spruced up.

Perhaps the most beautiful island in this region are part of the Andaman and Nocobar group of islands. However, more important aspect is the aspect of its being the symbol of freedom struggle unlike any other in the country.

Prof Mukhi has the reputation of being the best finance minister in the country as finance minister of Delhi. He is here as a man with a mission.

One of the problems these island face is that of poor communication connectivity. He said  work on laying the undersea cable from Chennai to Port Blair would  start shortly. The centre gave approval to this  Rs 1102.38 crore project in September, 2016. The target is to complete it by the end of 2018 to provide these islands with appropriate bandwidth and telecom connectivity for implementation of e-Governance initiatives; establishment of IT and ITeS industries and  e-commerce facilities. It will also provide the much needed tool to the educational institutions for knowledge sharing, availability of job opportunities and fulfil the vision of Digital India.

He said the other priority was increasing frequency of flights to Port Blair and the issue was being taken up vigourously with the civil aviation ministry. Operational hours of Port Blair airport have been increased and night landing facilities put in place.

He said with night landing facilities, more airlines were showing interest. New companies like Vistara and Indigo have already launched their services to Port Blair while. Similarly, Go Air has also introduced flights from Mumbai and Bengaluru to Port Blair. This has not only improved the connectivity but also had led to a competitive scenario and slashing down of air fare on Mainland – Island sector. Currently, Air India, Jet Airways, Go Air, Spice Jet, Indigo & Vistara  operate their flights to Port Blair. Also the Vistara Airline has started direct flights from Delhi to Port Blair from April 15 last on every Saturday and Sunday.

Besides these scheduled flights, A and N Administration operates chartered flights through Air India on Chennai-Port Blair-Chennai and Kolkata-Port Blair-Kolkata sector for providing affordable air-connectivity to the Islanders. Presently, chartered flights are being operated on weekly one flight basis between Chennai and Port Blair and on fortnightly basis between Kolkata and Port Blair.

A new Integrated Terminal building is being constructed by Airports Authority of India with all the modern facilities of International standard. The work has already been started and the building shall come up by June 2020. The new Terminal will have the capacity of 1200 passengers and modern facilities like Inline X-ray baggage inspection system, elevators, escalators, conveyer belts etc. Besides, the navigational aids are also being upgraded by adding Glide Path Indicator to the Instrument Landing System. With the addition of new flights, more tourists as well as Islanders are able to make to and fro journey and it has checked the unbearable air tariff. He said the union government was is being approached for subsidized fares to Andaman, akin to the subsidy structure followed for Srinagar, Leh and Ladakh and North Eastern States.

Yet another impoprtant area converting A and N territory  into a total green power zone by December 2018, through alternative energy sources such as solar, hydro, wind, waves and LNG. To realize this goal, a tripartite agreement has been signed between Administration, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy and three public sector undertakings for setting up of solar power plants.  Work will be completed before December, 2018. The Union Home Minister  Rajnath Singh laid the foundation stone for Solar Power Plants of 17 MW capacity at Manglutan and 8 MW at Chidyatapu, during a function organized at Guptapara on April 7 last.

As part of the green energy initiatives, 13 government buildings in the Islands have been powered by solar energy in the first phase. Over 70 panchayat offices will be powered by solar and more than 200 public representatives (Councilors, Pramukhs and Zilla Parishad office bearers) will be motivated to install solar systems on their roof tops, by availing government  subsidy and loan from the banks.

The ban on chewable tobacco products in these Islands was imposed in the larger interest of public health in October last. The ban was imposed in the light of increase in percentage of oral cancer on these islands. Fifty cases were reported in 2015 and 84 cases in 2016.

In order to check the growing alcoholism among the younger generation and its harmful effects to the individual, family and the society, the Lt Governor has constituted a separate Directorate of Prohibition so that the directive principle as mentioned in Article 47 of the Constitution curbing the use of intoxicating drinks can be implemented in the true spirit. A sustained campaign to generate awareness on harmful effect of alcohol is being undertaken. This step along with crackdown on illegal liquor has been widely appreciated by Islanders, especially women.

The ship acquisition process for procurement of new ships for A & N Islands is being put on  fast track under the “Make in India” initiative of the centre. Under this initiative, the A & N Administration has already ordered four big ships (two Mainland and two Inter-Island) with Cochin Shipyard Ltd. These are likely to be delivered in 2019-20. Similarly, 10 smaller Harbour Crafts have been ordered with two shipyards at Goa, the delivery for which would commence in the middle of 2017 in a phased manner.

Meanwhile, as an interim measure to augment shipping services in the Inter-Island sector, MV Bharat Seema, a 388 pax-cum-100 ton cargo vessel has been taken over from the Union Territory of Lakshadweep  Administration on Book Transfer Basis and was inducted into service from October 7, 2016. The vessel is now plying between Port Blair and Hutbay. The A & N Administration has also concluded an agreement for charter of a 450 pax-cum-100 ton cargo vessel namely ‘MV Coral Queen’ which has arrived in the Islands and likely to be inducted into service soon.

Yet another major initiative is regarding central university to  be opened in the Islands as there is a high demand from the students to seek admission in various degree colleges, and some students despite having good academic records are not getting admission in higher colleges. Prof Mukhi has already met Union  Minister of Human Resource Development, Shri Prakash Javadekar at New Delhi in this regard. A Committee in this regard visited the A and N Islands. A Law College was started on October 1, 2016, paving way for law education in the Islands. The Law College has an initial intake of 30 students for 5 years integrated Law Course.

Rail Project: A rail project connecting Port Blair to Diglipur in the North and Middle Andaman has also been planned. The Govt. of India is very positive in this regard. The Lt Governor has already met the  Union Railway Minister  Suresh Prabhu in this regard.

Prof Mukhi said health services were being upgraded. In view of many heart cases being referred to mainland and a long pending need, a Cath lab for angioplasty (Stents) and Cardio Thoracic Surgery facilities for Bypass Surgery is planned to be set up in G B Pant Hospital by June next.

An Operation Theatre was inaugurated at CHC Bambooflat on November 9, 2016. This has fulfilled the long pending demand of people of Bambooflat and its adjoining villages of area. The new OT caters to about 35,000 people in and around Bambooflat area.

A Sports Academy for boys and girls in basketball, swimming and cycling was started on October 1 last for promotion of sports in the Islands. The Andaman & Nicobar Sports Academy (ANSA), has come up under the scheme of ‘Hum Chhuyenge Aasman’, a Govt. of India initiative. This academy is providing sports training to 40 selected students on residential basis.

The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is being enthusiastically welcomed by the people of the Islands. Though, the A&N Islands is relatively clean as compared to other cities of the country, the administration is constantly carrying out drives and encouraging voluntary organizations for such drives. The A & N Islands will become open defecation free by 2018.

New roads and bridges are also coming up.  Approval has been accorded by M.O.E.F & C.C. for construction of 2 Lane Bridge over Humphrey Strait connecting Baratang Island and Middle & North Andaman. Certain roads are being upgraded that includes  the road from Beodnabad to Ferrargunj from KM 12.00 to KM 45.00 on NH- 223.

Read more