Questions for Tourism Minister RV Deshpande

This is in response to the article ‘Let not false propaganda undo a good project: R.V. Deshpande‘ The honourable minister for tourism states in this interview:

We made it clear that the Tourism department does not own any of the properties, which means we can’t sell anything or even lease the destinations. So, there’s no question of privatization of any of them, let alone the art gallery.

Going through some of the documents – recommendations by KTVG, government circulars and the tourism policy 2015-2020 document -there are some facts which seem to stand in contradiction to what the honourable minister says. These are the following:

  1. In the govt order no.TD 176 TTT 2014, dated 1st Jan 2015 it is stated that “Tourism Department has the advantage of being the owner of land at prime tourist locations, which if utilized appropriately can optimize private investment.” The honourable minister declares in this circular that his department indeed owns land.
  2. “For development of tourism infrastructure projects, government land could be leased to the private developer / entrepreneur for a period of 30 years, renewable by another 30 years (through appropriate lease/ development agreements) and shall be decided by the Department of Tourism/ agency concerned on a case to case basis.” (p24 Tourism Policy 2015-2020) The honourable minister does indeed articulate the possibilities of engaging in leasing out land.
  3.  In the govt order no.TD 176 TTT 2014 dated 1st Jan 2015 Karnataka Tourism Infrastructure limited was approved to be set up. It came into being on 27th July 2015.  The blurb on the company states that it is into real estate activities with own or leased properties. The Tourism Policy states the intention for the creation of this company – “All land assets that are currently under the governance and administration of the Department of Tourism would vest with the Company. Further, the Company would become responsible 
for the, leasing, renting, concessioning, etc. of these land assets. (p19 Tourism Policy 2015-2020)
  4. Why does the govt have only a 26% stake in it? Does this then mean that the private players with a 74% stake have more ownership of land that is actually the commons? Is this not what you call a sell off or am I completely mistaken?

Would the honourable minister for tourism shed some light on this?

I would like to end this with quoting from a Supreme Court judgement (Intellectuals Forum, Tirupathi vs State Of A.P. & Ors on 23 February, 2006) which looks at the doctrine of public trust:

Thus the public trust is more than an affirmation of state power to use public property for public purposes. It is an affirmation of the duty of the State to protect the people’s common heritage of streams, lakes, marshlands and tidelands., surrendering the right only in those rare cases when the abandonment of the right is consistent with the purposes of the trust. This is an articulation of the doctrine from the angle of the affirmative duties of the State with regard to public trust. Formulated from a negatory angle, the doctrine does not exactly prohibit the alienation of the property held as a public trust. However, when the state holds a resource that is freely available for the use of the public, it provides for a high degree of judicial scrutiny upon any action of the Government, no matter how consistent with the existing legislations, that attempts to restrict such free use. To properly scrutinize such actions of the Government, the Courts must make a distinction between the government’s general obligation to act for the public benefit, and the special, more demanding obligation which it may have as a trustee of certain public resources, [Joseph L. Sax “The public Trust Doctrine in Natural Resource Law: Effective Judicial Intervention”, Michigan Law Review, Vol.68 No.3 (Jan.1970) PP 471-

566)]. According to Prof. Sax, whose article on this subject is considered to be an authority, three types of restrictions on governmental authority are often thought to imposed by the public trust doctrine [ibid]:

1. the property subject to the trust must not only be used for a public purpose, but it must be held available for use by the general public;

2. the property may not be sold, even for fair cash equivalent

3. the property must be maintained for particular types of use. (i) either traditional uses, or (ii) some uses particular to that form of resources.

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