Updated: April 7, 2018 10:55:01 am
Women members of the erstwhile royal families of Gujarat, who now run heritage properties, on Friday blamed the state’s prohibition law for drawing tourists away from Gujarat towards neighbouring states and pitched for relaxation of the law.
Raising the issue at the seminar on Heritage Tourism in Gujarat, hosted by the Ahmedabad chapter of FICCI Ladies Organisation (FLO), ‘Maharani’ Radhika Raje Gaekwad of Vadodara’s Lukshmi Vilas Palace said that Vadodara had lost out as a possible venue for the wedding of Reliance Industries’ Akash Ambani, son of Mukesh Ambani, and Shloka Mehta due to the anti-liquor law.
Gaekwad said, “For almost all tourists, the travel experience is incomplete without relaxation and celebration…. Alcohol is key to this, and the luxury traveller would want services that go with the tour…. Today we have almost no facility that match the criteria of luxury. The Ambanis, now preparing for their family wedding, have forsaken Baroda as a venue…on these (that Gujarat is a dry state) grounds.” She said, “A more tourist-friendly approach to prohibition would attract travel to our state.”
Gaekwad’s observation found support from the likes of the erstwhile maharanis of Bhavnagar, Danta (Banaskantha), and Farzana Kadri, who owns the Diwan’s bungalow in Ahmedabad. Almost all eight members of former royal families who took part in the event said they want the government to take a more proactive role in attracting tourists and promoting heritage tourism.
Samyukta Kumari, who runs Nilambag Palace hotel in Bhavnagar, said, “…prohibition is a huge problem as far as weddings are concerned. There is a very limited segment of Marwaris and Jains that one can cater to.” She also criticised the abolition of privy purses in 1971 and said, “It was not pocket money for individuals but sustenance for historical legacy of our country.”
Reiterating the issue in the subsequent panel discussion, Chandrakumari of the erstwhile state of Danta, in Banaskantha district, said, “None of the officials ever come to listen to us, or to help us in any way…. (Law against consumption of) alcohol is a big drawback. How do we make foreigners, who want a cold glass of beer, understand? It is very difficult to explain to them that this is a dry state”.
Vidhatri Devi of Utelia, near the town of Lothal, suggested that the government should “copy-paste the tourism policy of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh”. Katie Bhujwala, from the erstwhile royal family of Kutch, who runs Bhuj House with husband Jehan Bhujwala, said that the house, dating back to 1894, was restored after damages in 2001 earthquake and opened as a homestay in 2015. Stating that theirs is the only Parsi property in Bhuj, Katie said, “Our family ran liquor distilleries. In 1960, after Bhuj (Gujarat) became a dry state, the liquor business collapsed overnight and our family migrated to Bombay (now Mumbai) in search of opportunities. By 1970s all Parsi homes had completely disappeared from Bhuj.”
Government officials scheduled to speak at the event failed to turn up. Among those expected were Gujarat Principal Secretary (tourism) S J Haider and Ahmedabad Municipal Commissioner Mukesh Kumar.
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