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Focus on youth

Print edition : Oct 09, 2009 T+T-
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SHOBHA KARANDLAJE says 15 lakh visitors are expected this year.-

SHOBHA KARANDLAJE, the Minister for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj and president of the Mysore Dasara 2009 Executive Committee, in an interview to Frontline, spoke about the governments efforts to make the Dasara festival more inclusive and to include the surrounding districts in the celebrations.

The Minister in charge of Mysore district also spoke of the special efforts to encourage young people to participate in the festival and of plans to reward young talent. Excerpts:

The Mysore Dasara is the biggest tourist event in Karnataka. Is there anything new that is being done this year?

We have decided to spread the scope of the celebrations to include people who have not had a chance to take part in them. Last year, we realised that there were a lot of people living in Mysore district who had not seen the city of Mysore, so we arranged tours for them during Dasara. Since the programme was very successful, we are extending it this year to residents of four other surrounding districts Hassan, Mandya, Kodagu and Chamrajnagar. From each of these districts, we expect several busloads of people and we will ensure that at least two busloads of students high school and college get a chance to visit. Also, elderly people who have never seen the Dasara festival will be encouraged to come to Mysore and arrangements will be made for them. In keeping with the plan to extend the scope of the celebrations to rural areas, a one-day Grameena Dasara is being organised in several towns around Mysore.

The Janapadotsava [folk art performances], which was introduced last year, will be much bigger this year. We have also told the Deputy Commissioners of every district that they will have to organise a display of their districts cultural tradition as part of the tableaux in the Dasara procession.

As far as events and programmes are concerned, is there anything new this year?

There will be a cycling event this year, which we think will be very popular. We have also requested the Indian military personnel who performed last year to repeat their performances this year. Last year, the Air Force Symphony Orchestra was a huge hit, apart from other performances by military personnel.

There are fears of a decline in the number of visitors this year because of swine flu?

Well, there has been no decline in the number of tourists arriving in the city over the past three months and the popularity of Mysore as a tourist destination has not changed. But we are taking all precautions. We have made arrangements to ensure that the authorities are informed immediately about any person seeking medical assistance for flu-like symptoms, so that they can consult hospitals such as NIMHANS [National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences] in Bangalore. Mysore has reported only one swine flu-related death so far, and even in that case, the child contracted the flu from his father in Bangalore. We have arranged for doctors, we have reserved beds in several hospitals, and we have taken all the necessary precautions. Let me assure you that we are fully prepared.

Recently, there was communal violence in Mysore in which three people were killed. Will you be using the occasion of Dasara to encourage communal harmony in the city?

Yes, there was some communal violence in the city, and there is a need to get rid of feelings [of strife]. That is why we want this years Dasara to be a Dasara of harmony. I have communicated to Muslim leaders in Mysore that Dasara is a Nada Habba [State festival] and not a festival of Hindus only.

For Muslims, we will be organising cultural activities for three days after Eid in different parts of the city. For example, in the Narasimharaja area, we have hired large halls to organise Urdu poetry sessions, and we are trying to get students from Urdu schools to perform at these cultural events.

We will also, for the first time, light up two prominent mosques and two prominent churches, including the famous St. Philomenas Church, in the city. Dasara is a time when small businesses flourish, and we will facilitate a cordial atmosphere of festivity that will benefit all residents.

How many visitors do you expect this year?

We expect at least 15 lakh visitors this year.

How much has been allocated in the State budget for Dasara?

We have been allocated Rs.6 crore in the budget. We are planning to raise another Rs.1 crore from advertisers and by selling Gold Cards.

What is the Gold Card scheme?

It is an all-access pass for the 10-day celebrations and will guarantee the holders access to all the events and venues. It costs Rs.6,000 for a couple.

What measures are being taken to attract tourists and visitors this year?

Is there any special message or theme for this years Dasara?

The special message is to the youth this year. In Yuva Dasara [Youth Dasara] segment, we have organised programmes for young people. There are so many talented people in our State you see them performing and actively taking part in TV programmes we have decided to give importance to such talent.

Artists from Karnataka have gone to other States and become prominent, but we have not recognised their talent. For example, there are sportsmen like Pankaj Advani and film actors like Prakash Rai [Prakash Raj] who did not get the honour they deserved from the State. We have to recognise and honour such talent.

Two girls from our State have won the worlds toughest spelling competition and secured first and second places, and the first ranker is from Mysore. We have to recognise them and honour them so that more people get inspired. So we are planning to call them from the United States and honour them publicly at a Dasara event.

Are there any special facilities for tourists from outside the State who do not understand Kannada?

We will provide commentaries in English for people who do not understand Kannada, but in the future we are planning to get translation machines for the thousands of foreign tourists who come to Mysore. This is essential for the many world-famous tourist attractions in the State, and we plan to initiate this scheme in Mysore.

There are several beautiful places in and around Mysore. Is the State government making arrangements for tourists to visit these places?

We [the Dasara Committee] are collaborating with the State Tourism Department to set up kiosks in Mysore and will organise short-term and long-term tours. The short-term tour will be a one-day affair where tourists will be able to see the architectural sights of Mysore and Srirangapatna.

The longer tour will take visitors to places around Mysore, such as the forests of Bandipur and Nagarhole, Talakadu and the Ranganathittu bird sanctuary.

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