Union Budget 2023-24: What are Unity Malls that the government wants in every state?

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman stressed on boosting tourism which she said holds “huge opportunities for jobs and entrepreneurship” while presenting her fifth Union Budget today (1 February). Announcing several measures including developing 50 selected destinations as a “complete package of tourism”, the minister said in her Budget speech, “Promotion of tourism will be taken up on mission mode, with active participation of states, convergence of government programmes and public-private partnerships.” She further declared that states will be encouraged to set up a “Unity Mall” in their capitals, most prominent tourism centres, or the financial capitals. Let’s take a look at what is Unity Mall and what the finance minister said about it. What else has the Centre proposed for bolstering the tourism sector? What is Unity Mall? Sitharaman did not expand on the features or workings of the Unity Mall that she proposed in the Budget. However, she said the Unity Mall will help in promoting and selling a state’s One District, One Product (ODOP), Geographical Indication (GI) items and other handicrafts. It will also provide space for such products from other states, the finance minister added. ALSO READ : A Budget for All: Ahead of 2024 general elections, Modi sarkar gets it right What is ODOP? The Central government’s One District One Product scheme aims to take local products to the national level and generate economic stability. Under the initiative, the state governments identify the main product for a district and then provide assistance for its processing, storage and marketing, noted Indian Express. According to the Ministry of Food Processing Industries, “The ODOP product could be a perishable agri produce, cereal-based product, or a food product widely produced in a district and their allied sectors. An illustrative list of such products includes mango, potato, litchi , tomato, tapioca, kinnu, bhujia, petha, papad, pickle , millet-based products, fisheries, poultry, meat as well as animal feed among others”. The ministry also said that “certain other traditional and innovative products including waste-to-wealth products” such as “honey, minor forest products in tribal areas, traditional Indian herbal edible items like turmeric , amla” , among others could also be supported under the scheme. What does GI stand for? “A geographical indication is a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin. In order to function as a GI, a sign must identify a product as originating in a given place,” says World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). These tags are accorded to agricultural products, foods, wine, spirit drinks, handicrafts, specific manufacturing skills and even traditions. Currently, India has 432 GI products, with Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala holding the maximum tags. ALSO READ : Union Budget 2023-24: What’s cheaper, what do you have to pay more for? Centre’s push for tourism sector Sitharaman said tourism would be developed with a focus on domestic as well as foreign tourists. She also proposed to roll out an app comprising all “relevant aspects of the tourist destination”. “In addition to aspects such as physical connectivity, virtual connectivity, tourist guides, high standards for food streets and tourists’ security, all the relevant aspects would be made available on an app to enhance tourist experience,” the finance minister announced in her Budget speech . To meet the objectives of ‘ Dekho Apna Desh ’ initiative which was launched to persuade the middle class to prefer domestic destinations over international ones, the government has decided to dovetail sector-specific skilling and entrepreneurship development. “For integrated development of theme-based tourist circuits, the ‘ Swadesh Darshan Scheme ’ was also launched. Under the Vibrant Villages Programme, tourism infrastructure and amenities will also be facilitated in border villages,” Sitharaman stated. Despite these slew of measures, there was no increase in Budget allocation for the tourism sector which remained at Rs 2,400 crore, the same as last year. What do stakeholders say? Stakeholders have mixed reactions to the Budget for the tourism sector as some demands such as tax concessions or industry status remained unmet, Business Standard reported. Some have also objected to the proposed hike of the tax collected at source (TCS) rate to 20 per cent from the current 5 per cent on overseas tour packages which will make foreign trips costlier. “The Budget entails multiple welcome initiatives like the revival of 50 airports, building of 50 new destinations, and high budgetary outlays on railways and highways which will help long-term growth for the domestic travel and tourism industry,” Rajesh Magow, co-founder and group chief executive officer, MakeMyTrip, told Business Standard. “However, one proposal that will negatively impact the industry is the move to increase the TCS mandate from 5 per cent to 20 per cent on overseas tour packages. This will not only increase the upfront cash flow for customers but will give an unfair advantage to foreign-based online travel booking platforms over India-based travel agents and tour operators,” Magow added. Nakul Anand, chairman of the Federation of Associations in Indian Tourism and Hospitality (FAITH), told The Hindu, “While we are thankful that the finance minister has touched upon developing tourism on a mission mode along with destination development, the Indian tourism, travel and hospitality industry was keenly looking forward to getting the vital infrastructure status, to be treated at par with merchandise exports and to have gotten enhanced support to tourism for global marketing”. With inputs from agencies Read all the  Latest News ,  Trending News ,  Cricket News ,  Bollywood News , India News  and  Entertainment News  here. Follow us on  Facebook ,  Twitter  and  Instagram .

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