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Friday,30-July-2021

Business

Making Goa safe the cornerstone of new state tourism policy

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Panaji

In the backdrop of a perception that tourists, especially foreigners, are unsafe in the coastal state, the Goa Tourism Policy 2020 aims to make it one of the safest destinations in the world.

The policy — approved by the state Cabinet this week — also pitches for diversification of the state’s bouquet of tourism offerings spread across 26 circuits, which includes promotion of the state as a culture and heritage tourism destination, while pitching for investments for creation of infrastructure for wedding tourism as well as meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) tourism segment.

The tourism policy was put together by KPMG Advisory Services at a one-time cost of Rs 4.99 crore and Rs 8 lakh a month for five years, for the development of four modules related to the policy.

The issue of safety of tourists has assumed prime importance in the state, which has taken the flak for crimes against tourists over the last decade or so.

The coastal state, which is reckoned as one of the leading destinations for beach and nightlife tourism, was ranked by the National Crime Records Bureau at the fourth place vis-a-vis crimes against and by foreigners, who account for nearly half a million of the nearly eight million tourists who visit the state.

In fact, the Bombay High Court bench in Goa in 2017 passed strictures against the Goa Police for shoddiness in dealing with the deaths of 245 foreigners, most of them tourists, in just over a decade.

In the Goa Tourism Policy 2020, one of the stated objectives obviously is to make the state a “safe destination”.

“Make Goa one of the safest tourist destinations as per world-class standards” has been listed as one of the cornerstone principles of the policy, along with promotion of sustainable tourism, providing seamless mobility to tourists and giving the visitors a diversified as well as an authentic experience that is uniquely Goan.

The policy has also called for a review of existing legislations dealing with “tourism travel, trade, cuisine, wellness and gaming”, along with examining measures for promotion of sustainable, environment-friendly, socially responsible tourism in the state, as well as creation of a single-window system for clearances to facilitate ease of business.

Among the key recommendations are setting up of a Goa Tourism Board with various industry stakeholders on board to take a call on tourism industry-related affairs — both in short- and long-term — and standardisation of tourism product offerings.

“There is inconsistency in quality and lack of standardisation in tourism product offerings and services. MICE facilities need to be further developed…. While developing tourism in the state, the focus should be on maintenance of cultural, heritage and natural assets. Moreover, the development of tourism infrastructure should ensure generation of considerable employment in the state,” the policy states.

“There is heavy dependence on certain tourist segments, source markets and travel models like charters. While focusing on the core products like beach tourism, culture and heritage tourism, the state should develop diverse tourism offerings like health and wellness tourism, community tourism etc,” it adds.

Bollywood

Film theaters in Telangana reopen after three months

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Film theaters in Telangana re-opened on Friday after a hiatus of more than three months.

Majority of about 600 theaters across the state re-opened with 100 per cent seating capacity.

The theaters resumed business with the screening of three new Telugu films – “Thimmarusu”, starring Satyadev and Priyanka Jawalkar, “Ishq – Not a Love Story”, starring Teja Sajja and Priya Prakash Varrier, and “Narasimhapuram” starring Nandakishore and Siri Hanumantu.

The first day saw a dull start as few cinema lovers turned out. However, the exhibitors expect the numbers to go up over next few days.

In Greater Hyderabad which has 160 theatres, single-screen theaters saw poor turnout while there was some activity at multiplexes.

INOX said it welcomed movie lovers at Hyderabad INOX at GVK One, Banjara Hills, and Maheshwari Parameshwari Mall. It said cinemas will be operated by a full vaccinated team and it is adhering to each and every instruction as prescribed in the notifications issued by the state government.

“We have curated a hygiene initiative called #SafetyFirst, which is a convergence of the measures prescribed by the government authorities and additional measures implemented by us. Besides the cinemas will be frequently deep cleaned and disinfection of all customer touch points including entrance, box office, lobbies, auditorium, F&B counters, restrooms and exit gates will be carried out,” it said.

“In an endeavour to provide enhanced hygiene, the protocols like mandatory mask, temperature check, e-tickets, contactless payment and entry and enhanced intake of fresh air have also been implemented,” it added.

Though the state government had lifted the lockdown and night curfew last month, the owners of cinema theatres did not resume the business immediately. They had presented few demands before the government to overcome the huge losses they suffered since last year due to Covid-19 induced lockdowns.

The government has agreed to allow theatres to collect parking fee. Theaters have remained shut for nearly 12 months since the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic and imposition of lockdown in March last year.

It was on November 23 that the Telangana government had permitted theatres in areas outside the containment zones to reopen with up to 50 of their seating capacity.

However, the business had remained dull due to fear of Covid. In February this year, theaters were allowed to operate at 100 per cent capacity.

Just as the film industry was trying to come out of the crisis, the second wave pushed it into further losses. Most of the theaters downed shutters in April.

The exhibitors hope that there will be no third wave of the pandemic. According to film industry sources, more than 20 Telugu films are waiting to be released in August-September.

S.S. Rajamouli’s much-awaited “RRR” starring Junior NTR and Ram Charan is expected to be released on October 13.

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Income Tax conducts searches on Kanpur-based ‘pan masala’ group

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The Income Tax Department has carried out a search action on over 30 premises, in three states, of a large pan masala manufacturing and real estate group based in Kanpur and Delhi, an official statement said on Friday.

A total of 31 premises, spread across Kanpur, Noida, Ghaziabad, Delhi, and Kolkata, were searched on Thursday, a Finance Ministry statement said, adding that the group has been earning huge amounts through unaccounted sale of pan masala and unaccounted real estate business, and this unaccounted income was laundered back into the concerns through a vast link of shell companies.

Digital and paper evidence found during search revealed a nation-wide network of such paper companies created by the group, it said.

The Directors of these companies are persons of no financial means, the investigations revealed.

While some of these persons are not even filing income tax returns, some others who do so, show extremely meagre amounts. Field investigations further revealed that these paper companies did not exist at the addresses mentioned and never conducted any business.

However, surprisingly these companies advanced so called loans and advances to the real estate group amounting to Rs 226 crore in just three years, the IT Department said.

A network of 115 such shell companies has been found. Forensic analysis of the digital data is in progress. The ‘Directors’ also admitted that they were only ‘dummy Directors’ and signed on the dotted lines as and when required in return for commission for their “services”.

During the search, the Income Tax teams also discovered secret hideouts where troves of documents containing details of unaccounted money and their process of laundering have been unearthed. Analysis of such documents and evidence is also underway.

The complete modus operandi has been uncovered by the team including the role of “cash handlers” and their details.

The modus operandi is similar with respect to the business of pan masala. They too have laundered back their unaccounted income through an extensive network of such shell companies.

Unaccounted loans and premia received from such paper companies exceeding Rs 110 crore in three years, have been detected.

The group ploughed back their unaccounted money through such shell companies by showing bogus advances against property sale, bogus loans and share premia.

Forensic analysis of evidence is in progress.

So far 34 bogus bank accounts of shell companies have been found. Deductions claimed under Income Tax Act, 1961 with respect to treatment of biodegradable waste are under detailed scrutiny. It has also been discovered that through some of these paper companies based in Kolkata, bogus sale and purchase of manure has been shown, amounting to Rs 80 crore so that cash can be deposited into bank accounts.

During the search, cash of more than Rs 52 lakh was found along with more than 7 kg gold, while preliminary figures indicate unaccounted transactions exceeding Rs 400 crore.

Further investigations are in progress.

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Alliance Air to operate Kolkata-Bhubaneswar flights via Ranchi

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Jewar Airport.

Air India’s regional subsidiary Alliance Air will operate Kolkata-Bhubaneswar flights via Ranchi from August 11.

Accordingly, the airline has deployed a 70 seater aircraft to connect these cities.

“The flight will operate every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.”

“This new flight will give the travellers from Ranchi and Bhubaneswar multiple options for further connectivity. It is the constant endeavor of Alliance Air to bolster its network and soar higher connecting India and beyond.”

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