Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Our elusive madam minister Renuka

Renuka Chowdhary, minister for tourism, needs to be briefed about her job anew.

She needs to be reminded that she's around to ensure tourism 'develops': i.e. grown from point A to point B, where point B represents a higher notch on the graph, leading to larger 'tourist' inflows and greater income accrueing from tourism.

She also needs to be told that, although development, like justice, needs to be 'seen to be done', it must first be done and then tomtommed.

Ms Renuka is one of the most 'visible' tourism ministers we have. She's here, there and everywhere - from Bollywood extravaganza to cultural hoo-haa, from inaugurating exhibitions to Sariska, where the tigers are not to be found.

But she is not available for comment about the immediate future of Indian tourism.

I have been trying to reach her for an interview since November last year, when her ministry issued a release stating that India had touched a landmark figure - 35 lakh (3.5 million) visitors!

The tourism ministry had set itself a target of 3,500,000 foreign visitors and the target was met. Which sounded like good news, at first glance, and I was keen on exploring an upbeat story: was Indian tourism finally getting its act together with the 'Incredible India' campaign?

However, Ms Renuka remained elusive.
I made several phone calls, seeking an appointment, but 'madam is busy'. always.

One day, I went across to the ministry office, sweet-talked my way in, without an appointment and parked myself in the offices of one of her secretaries. I refused to move until I was granted an appointment, if not an audience.

The gentlemen working in the ministry politely offered me tea, biscuits and books to pass the time, for 'madam is in a meeting'. Tea and biscuits down, I twiddled my thumbs. 5 pm turned to 6 pm and 6 pm to 7 pm, and I fretted about missing the last bus home.

Madam, meanwhile, breezed past - out of her office and straight into a car that whizzed her off to a high-profile function. I watched her whiz past, but before one could say 'Madam', madam was gone.

I, unfortunately, am not of that breed of journalist that runs after a politician or film-star or an undertrial or any person-of-the-moment, microphone and notebook in hand. I don't believe I have to. I don't believe politicians deserve to be spoken to, if they wish to avoid the media.

So, I did not give chase.

I wrote out a note, requesting an appointment, or at least, a confirmation that she would be willing to answer my questions on email, through fax or on the phone. I also requested her to tell me if she would prefer to let the Media (Public) Relations guy or someone else in the ministry handle the interview.

There was no response from the ministry.

I have not bothered to go back and seek an interview. Like I said, I don't believe I have to chase politicians if they don't want to field the press.

I still have a story, though. Which I will post as a separate post, in a while.

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