Privilege Motion Filed Against Tourism Minister Based on The Wire’s Reporting

CPI(M) MP Elamaram Kareem has filed the notice against Prahlad Singh Patel for allegedly misleading the house in response to a question on tourism in J&K.

New Delhi: Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)] MP Elamaram Kareem has filed a notice of breach of privilege against minister of state for tourism Prahlad Singh Patel for allegedly misleading the house in a response to a question in the Rajya Sabha in November 2019.

Kareem had asked the government for data from Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) on ‘percentage of reduction in revenue received from tourism especially in the months of August, September and October 2019.”

Patel responded with ‘information on revenue received from tourism is not maintained’.

However, reporting for The Wire, Aniket Aga and Chitrangada Choudhury had found that the minister had misled the parliament, as the J&K tourism department had informed his ministry that the average decline in revenue from tourism in J&K for the months of August, September and October 2019 was 71%.

Also read: Number of Tourists in Kashmir Down by 86% in August-December 2019: RTI

When responding in the parliament, however, Patel glossed over this information and said that such information is not maintained.

RTI documents had revealed that the Ministry of Tourism officials in Delhi sought information from officials in J&K on the questions raised by Kareem in the Rajya Sabha. The J&K officials responded to each of the questions with details. But the minister of tourism chose only to include parts of the responses in his official response in parliament. He incorrectly said that the information on revenue decline was not maintained, even when such information had been made available by the J&K administration.

The chairperson of the Rajya Sabha may now choose to admit or reject the motion himself or refer it to a parliamentary committee to adjudicate.

Tourism in J&K, like all other industries, has suffered in the aftermath of the unilateral reading down of Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution. The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) had said in December that it estimated that the economic loss due to the security clampdown in the Valley was Rs 15,000 crore.

As Muzamil Bhat and Choudhury reported in late-January, tourist footfall in the Kashmir Valley fell 86% for the period August to December 2019 compared to the same period last year and a decline of 93% compared to the same period in 2017.