Panaji: The recent exposé by ‘The Navhind Times’ linked to the department of tourism vis-à-vis Travel and Tourism Fair being held in Kolkata from July 12, which forced the department to withdraw from the particular event, has now resulted in more skeletons tumbling out of the closet of the department.
Rampant corruption in the department has come to the fore with revelation by deputy director of tourism Rajesh Kale that a space of 150 sq mt for setting up Goa pavilion at the Netaji Indoor Stadium, in the West Bengal capital was actually never booked by the department, while the official tender document, which was released to invite bids for appointment of an agency to handle the Kolkata-based tourism event, has clearly said so.
The space was supposed to have cost the department Rs 36 lakh, with the tender document estimating the cost for 3-day participation in the event at Rs 33.38 lakh.
Deputy director of tourism Rajesh Kale categorically informed this daily on Thursday that the department did not book any space in the particular stadium, for erecting Goa pavilion.
This information raises a pertinent question that if no space was booked by the tourism department, then where would the agency supposed to be selected on July 10 through opening of bids, have erected the Goa pavilion, since the tender document specifically mentioned that this agency needed to design the pavilion/ stall in three-dimensional mode and construct it using cardboard, wood and other permissible material.
A highly placed source in the department of tourism informed that annually the department plans to participate in a couple of tourism fairs in various cities around the country. “However, in reality the participation takes place in few major cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai, while involvement in such fairs at smaller places is only on paper,” he added, pointing out that the participation of the department at the Kolkata Travel and Tourism Fair may have been planned only on paper, and hence no space was booked by the department, even though it was falsely shown as 150 sq mt on the tender document.
Some stakeholders in the state tourism sector told this daily that their concerns about ongoing corruption in the department of tourism are time and again proved through such events supposed to be participated by the department. “There are instances in the past, wherein spaces have never been booked and no Goa pavilion or stalls set up at the tourism fairs, however the department had created a picture of its participation in these events, with payments made to the selected agencies and spaces booked,” they maintained.
It is interesting to note that although no actual participation of the department takes place at some of these travel fairs, all the related procedures including awarding the bids, issuing work orders, receiving post-tender financial approvals and releasing payments are carried out systematically.
During the ongoing year, the department of tourism, besides Kolkata, has planned to participate in such tourism fairs at Chennai, Ahmedabad, Surat, Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Delhi and Jaipur, for which agencies under Category A in the empanelled list of the department were selected on July 10.
The revelation has left no doubt in mind that all these irregularities are happening with active connivance of the empanelled event management agencies and the department officials.
Interestingly, the Bengaluru-based Sphere Travel Media and Exhibitions Pvt Ltd, which organises the India International Travel Mart (IITM), is also a Category B agency in the empanelled list of the department of tourism. Therefore, this agency organises the IITM on one hand, while bids for handling the participation of the Goa government in this event, on the other.