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Good news: Tourism minister has grand plans for Delhi’s nightlife. Bad news: They’re still plans


Highways might soon be rid of speed breakers, but Delhi’s tourism and hospitality face years-old roadblocks that haven’t been removed. Successive governments and ministers have announced good intentions and grand plans to tackle unfair deadlines, music restrictions, a gridlocked permission system, strict excise policies and police ‘raids’, but little has changed. Tourism minister Kapil Mishra also has big plans and many promises, but not enough concrete answers, as he fields some tough questions from Delhi Times.

Kapil Mishra, Tourism Minister, Delhi

Q: Only restaurants and bars in five-star hotels are open 24×7, and the restaurant industry has been urging governments to extend the deadlines of the large majority of standalone establishments too. This discrimination between standalone and five-star outlets has been one of the industry’s primary concerns for years. How are you going to address the issue?
A: The initial approval is only for restaurants and bars in five-star hotels, so only 13 such restaurants have been granted permission (to operate 24×7). We are now looking to change that. As the first step, we will add 100 more restaurants to this list. I personally believe that if there is commercial activity even at night, there’s less crime.

Q: There have been several instances of the police shutting down terrace areas of restaurants in Hauz Khas Village and CP, of them not allowing ‘loud music’ to be played after 10pm. Almost two years ago, ‘background music’ being played in restaurants was prohibited in Khan Market, on the grounds that there was no permission from the licensing branch of the Delhi Police. Getting permissions at various levels and from different departments has been a hindrance – how will you ensure ease of doing business for restaurateurs?
A: Sometimes, the police has to shut places as there is no legal clarity (on some matters), so everything becomes illegal. Our building laws and licensing policies are such that if you are running a business in the city, there’s a high chance that some or the other ‘illegality’ can be proven in the business. We are working on ease-of-business policies and reviewing existing policies. Jitne bhi extra licences, requirements and clearances hain, sabko hum hata rahe hain. Once there is clarity that these are the only three licences that a person needs to run their business, then no one can come and shut things down.
Even in the event industry, police se permission nahin milti thi aur kai baar extra passes mange jaate thay, lekin jab Delhi government ki policy aayi toh police ne bhi respond kiya (referring to the single-window clearance for events implemented by the government last year). What we have learnt from our event industry experience is that if we can come up with good, clear policy solutions, everyone joins in.
We have recently scrapped the tourism licence for restaurants, bars and cafes, and within a few days, we will be taking some major decisions. We will have a joint meeting with the CM, restaurant association and other stakeholders, and we are looking at implementing in the restaurant industry what we did in the events domain – something along the lines of a single-window clearance system.

Q: The Delhi government and the Delhi Police have seldom been on the same page when it comes to rules and policies, though.
A: Hum saath mein kaam kar rahe hain, hum bilkul saath mein kaam kar rahe hain.

Q: Movie shooting crews have had it particularly tough in Delhi in the past year. Last year, NDMC and ASI increased film shooting rates, and despite several announcements that DTTDC would be the nodal agency to streamline the process of permissions for film shoots, nothing has been done so far. Why is that?
A: We are yet to decide whether DTTDC will be the nodal agency or not, but we are certainly planning to appoint a nodal agency for film shooting to grant permissions and also promote film shoots here. This year, you will see that happening.

Q: DMRC and ASI, which are mentioned in your list of stakeholders, are not even aware of any proposal for a nodal agency. Have you spoken to them?
A: No. We are first finalising the nodal agency, and that nodal agency will have representatives from various bodies. The Film and Television Producers Guild of India Ltd has approached us and they are also willing to join hands with us. We have asked them to come up with suggestions. For example, EEMA (the Event and Entertainment Management Association) came up with a policy solution (single-window clearance for ticketed events in Delhi, which was implemented last year). We have asked film industry representatives to do the same and they are working on it. Actors who often meet the CM (Arvind Kejriwal) also have suggestions, so now we are waiting for their response.

Q: Filmmakers often have complaints about shooting in Delhi. In fact, Gurgaon and Noida have greatly benefited from Delhi’s ill repute in this area. Filmmakers who want to shoot in Delhi now prefer Noida because of UP’s shooting-friendly policies. This year, UP has even received a special mention in the National Awards…
A: Because they are giving out extra money for film shoots in their state – and that we are not going to do for sure. However, as part of our Brand Delhi campaign, we will promote Delhi as a destination for film shoots. Mumbai is saturated, so we definitely have an opportunity here.

Q: Last year, Delhi slipped from third to fourth position in the Foreign Tourists Arrival (FTA) list, and the number of foreign tourists travelling to Delhi has gone down by 30-40%. The numbers have seen some dips since the Nirbhaya case, and women travellers say they don’t feel safe here. What are you doing to address this issue?
A: The Brand Delhi campaign will address all security concerns of foreign tourists. It will be a communication strategy – we will tell tourists about experiences (they can get) in Delhi and will work on creating a positive image. At the end of the day, it is all about what you present. Delhi has everything, it is a very good product, but we were not packaging it well. China nakli Taj Mahal bana kar bhi humse zyada kama leta hai, hamara asli Taj Mahal usse kum kamata hai. Hamare paas art, heritage, culture, sab kuch hai, but we were not packaging it well. This year, we are focussing on packaging and branding.

Q: When Zubin Mehta performed in Delhi last year, he said, “In our country, in the capital of the nation, there is no concert hall. This is a shame.” You promised him then that concert halls would be built. Any progress on that front?
A: There is no progress. We would love to have concert halls in Delhi, but land (acquisition) is not in our hands. Abhi toh pehli baar dikh raha hai tourism department bhi koi cheez hai, foundation stone rakhne mein time toh lagta hai. Nothing was moving in the
city earlier. This year is going to be a turning point.

Q: With your plans for restaurants and pubs, are you saying you will revive Delhi’s nightlife?
A: I don’t think the city’s nightlife is only about restaurants and bars. I see a huge potential in Chandni Chowk – agar hum wahan food aur heritage ko lekar kuch shuru karte hain, toh saari Dilli wahan zaroor jayegi.

Q: Renuka Chowdhury (tourism minister in UPA I) also had big plans for night bazaars over 10 years ago, but that initiative never turned into anything lasting.
A: Lagta toh sabko hai kuch hona chahiye, par baat yeh hai ki karta kaun hai? The areas that we are looking at are Hauz Khas, Chandni Chowk, Lajpat Nagar, Khan Market, Karol Bagh and Paharganj. We have identified about 10 streets and we will start working in these areas this year.

Mishra on illuminating Delhi monuments for evening visits
“Foreign tourists want to see illuminated Delhi monuments. We have already started working on lighting up 14 monuments that the Delhi government has renovated, but what is the point when those monuments are not open in the evening? However, we open monuments after special permission for those who want to conduct evening walks”

Q: There seem to be a lot of plans for ‘this year’ – what all can we expect by the end of 2016?
A: DTTDC is working on 10 big projects at present, including a skywalk in Qutub. Dilli Haat and Garden of Five Senses will be revamped. We are planning to construct a cultural centre in Delhi. DTTDC and the tourism department should become facilitators. This is the first time that tourism is one of the major highlights of the budget. There are very good people in the private sector, whether it is about organising walks or restoring havelis. Ek haveli Delhi government ne restore ki hai, ek private organisation ne ki hai – you should see both of them to understand why the government should not be doing it. We will support private players, provide them with facilities and help them in getting clearances.

Source: TOI

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