Maharashtra government will seek to acquire the decommissioned aircraft carrier INS Viraat and convert it into a maritime museum, state tourism minister Jaykumar Rawal today said. Speaking on the occasion of World Tourism Day, he said the government plans to berth the ship in the Vasai-Virar creek near Mumbai. He expressed hope that as Union Minister of State for Defence Subhash Bhamre is from Maharashtra, the state’s claim will carry more weight. Other states including Goa and Andhra Pradesh too are in the race to acquire the ship. INS Viraat was decommissioned from the Navy earlier this year. In the past, Maharashtra had made a failed bid to acquire aircraft carrier INS Vikrant with a plan to convert it into a museum after it was decommissioned in 1997. The minister also said that the government has asked the Customs Department to design ‘Quick Response’ (QR) code for all the heritage buildings in South Mumbai, instead of the state tourism department doing the job.
“Tourists can scan the QR code (through mobile phone) and hear (audio clip of) information about the building’s history or download it,” Rawal said. Referring to the theme of this year’s Tourism Day — ‘sustainable tourism’ — he said the government plans to launch e-vehicles in tourist hotspots such as Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani. There is also a plan to make available bicycles for tourists in sanctuaries, hill stations and religious places, he said. The Maharashtra government is joining hands with cruise ship company Carnival Cruise to bring cruise liners to the state’s coast, he said.
Mumbai-Cochin-Maldives cruise circuit, which will later cover Sri Lanka too, will be likely inaugurated on November 24, the minister said. The government is aiming to get 950 cruise ships to visit the state coast in the next four years, he said. The government is also going to start a tourist guide training program at Mumbai, Aurangabad, Sindhudurg and Nagpur, Rawal said.