Mumbai:  Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Tourism and Culture Shripad Naik today announced that the Ministry of Tourism would help Maharashtra’s Department of Tourism to create a cultural hub, most of it open air, in Mumbai, similar to New York’s Times Square.

Naik announced that the Ministry of Tourism would sanction Rs. 5 crore for phase-I of the project with similar amounts for every subsequent phase. This would be over and above what the Government of Maharashtra would spend in creating the basic infrastructure to incentivise private sector parties to invest in the project.

The Government of Maharashtra and local authorities will select the various private parties, each of which will undertake a specific responsibility.

Mumbai’s Kala Ghoda area is being seen as the location best suited for creating such a hub of heritage and  culture.

A final decision on the exact location in the area will be taken keeping in mind issues such as ensuring that there is no disturbance to vehicular traffic and ensuring maximum activity.

The vision behind Kala Ghoda is to provide popular entertainment as well as access to heritage and culture for the benefit of international tourists, domestic tourists and the people of Mumbai.  This should result in a few themes and additional jobs being created.

The features of the hub at Kala Ghoda are as follows:-

(1) A 15-foot-high Flag of India, made of hard transparent materials and lit from within will provide a photo opportunity to visitors, just as the US flag posed does in Times Square.

(2) Large electronic billboards will give corporate an opportunity to advertise their products while also providing income to the owners of the building that host such electronic advertisements and entertainment to visitors.

(3) With the grant given by the Ministry of Tourism it will be ensured that :

(a) the entire pedestrian area will be paved with stone slabs (not cobble stone);

(b) wide steps rising upwards will be created for visitors to sit on.  At Times Square such benches are made of high quality,  hard transparent, coloured plastic lit from below, as well as some  such sitting areas in steps made of steel;

(c) drinking water fountains with reverse osmosis-treated water so that no plastic water bodies are taken there.

(4) One or two high resolution web cams/CCTVs will be operated by one or two private parties selected by the Government of Maharashtra/local authorities to photograph live the visitors sitting on these wide steps and to (a) project them on gigantic screens opposite the benches; and (b) provide a live “stream” on the internet.

(5) Film and cartoon characters, preferably from the cinemas of India and cartoons by Indian cartoonists will, walk around the Kala Ghoda cultural hub for photo opportunities with visitors, as at Times Square.  Tipping these humans dressed as cartoon and film characters will be voluntary because they will be paid a salary.

(6) There will be street performances.

Kala Ghoda already has the following facilities and activities that make it suitable for becoming the Indian equivalent of Times  Square.   It has :

(i) art galleries;
(ii)music shops;
(iii) places to eat at;
(iv) artists sketching visitors
(v) access to the Fashion Street shopping area

The Ministry of Tourism is funding a scheme to project 3-dimensional (3D) images of 36 Indian monuments, one from each State and Union Territory at India Gate, Delhi.  Depending on the success of that project, the Ministry of Tourism will consider similar projections on the Gateway of India, Mumbai.

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