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Durga Ma to drive tourist traffic


Indrani Dutta

KOLKATA, Aug. 6

DURGA Puja will now be a brand.

The West Bengal Government is planning to cash in on the State's biggest socio-religious event by turning it into a tourist package.

According to State Tourism Minister Dinesh Dakua, during Durga Puja, Kolkata is transformed into a veritable wonderland. ``Outsiders find hard to believe the scale of the pomp that accompanies the festival, which sucks into its vortex all communities, me lting boundaries of caste, creed and religion.''

He said launching Durga Puja as a tourist product was part of the Government's strategy to improve existing ones and create new ones by adding attractive items.

According to sources in the tourism department, the city-based package features taking the tourists around the city during the day. At night, they will be taken to see the lighting, which usually focuses on current as well as sublime issues.

The package also includes a visit to the `heritage Pujas' of the city -- family affairs dripping with tradition, some as old as the city itself. ``We also plan to include a bhog (offering to the Goddess) at one of these houses by special arrangement,'' a source said.

On the last day of the four-day festival, tourists will be taken by a luxury launch for a ride on the Hooghly to witness the immersion ceremony.

Dakua will meet tour operators in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka in mid-August to apprise them of the State's initiatives, the sources said. Later, travel agents in Gujarat and Maharashtra will also be approached. These States account for the bulk of the 56-la kh tourists who visit West Bengal annually.

The sources added that talks had already been held with the Delhi Tourism and Transport Corporation and an agreement had been signed to promote Durga Puja as a tourist attraction. Marketing will begin from September.

This year, the festival begins from October 23.

Dakua said the Government would confine its programme to improve tourist traffic to infrastructure development, publicity, dissemination of information and co-ordination of sectoral activities to create conditions conducive to private sector investment i n tourism.

State tourism secretary Pranab Roy said the product would be launched in a small way, mainly to test the market, from this year on. ``We will develop it as we go along, and while in the first year we do not expect a huge flow of people, we feel that the product has good potential.''

Pic.: Durga Puja: Festive attraction

Picture by Parth Sanyal

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