Rajasthan with its land area of 342,239 sq. km. is the largest state in India and has a State Domestic Product 0f almost $21 billion.
But that is one state in India, which in my impression has done the best so far when it comes to sustainable development of its people. It has identified its core strength (tourism) and is developing with a zeal that I have never witnessed before in any part of the country. It has become such a mainstay for the government that it was declared to be an industry by the state government in 1989 and has since been regarded as the "people's industry". The rate of growth for tourists in Rajasthan has been 7% and 5% respectively for the past few years for domestic and international tourists repsectively. Rajasthan, which is predominently a desert land (Thar), has a rich heritage that is spread far and wide in the state, from Jaipur in the east to Jaisalmer in the west and Ranthambore in the north to Mt. Abu in the south. Unlike other states, different cities across the state have emerged as centers of tourism, which has made this industry as a instrument for sustainable development in the state:
- employment generation,
- environmental regeneration,
- development of remote areas,
- social integration, and
- poverty alleviation
Every rupee spent by a tourist in Rajasthan circulates 13 times in the state and every hotel room generates employment to three people directly and eight indirectly. Tourism worldwide is a $3.4 trillion industry with a tax revenue of $655 billion in 1999 with a directly employing 144 million people the prospects for Rajasthan are very good considering that:
- India constitutes only about 0.4% of world foreign tourist movement,
- It ranks 44th on the top 60 destinations of the world,
- Rajasthan has emerged as the single largest tourism destination in India attracting over 40% of foreign tourists in India,
- Roads are wider,
- Traffic is regulated better,
- Major roads don't have dirt and rubble piled alongside,
- Sidewalks have been upgraded,
- Walls alongside all major roads in the city are now painted in pink,
- All tourist attractions are now well lit in the nights,
- There's less homeless people in the city. And this is what impressed me the most about the city. There are now Rein-baseras (makeshift tents) for about 100 people along side the roads that can be used by the homeless to spend the nights instead of being uncomfortable on the sidewalks,
- Most of the heritage tourist sites are being maintained on a large scale.
On the industrial front Rajasthan has the promise that on paper is one of the most attractive in India. It has:
- 2nd largest non-ferrous mineral deposits in India,
- 2nd largest deposits of limestone,
- Stable government
- Outstanding law and order situation
- Excellent electric power availability. It is the only state in India to produce power from three sources - hydro, thermal, and nuclear.
- With a large availability of land there are significant reserves of natural gas and high potential to harness solar and wind energy.