By Bashir Pathan
Gandhinagar: In its bid to boost tourism in Gujarat, the Narendra Modi government is betting big on an Exotic Zone (Casino Zone) modeled on Las Vegas (USA), the entertainment capital of the world, replete with bars to attract tourists from different parts of India and the world. The Rs. 480 crore tourism project, being tipped as “Indus Oasis” is proposed at Khadir in the Rann of Kutch near the world famous ruins of Dholavira —the Indus Valley Civilization site.
An official document — Blueprint for Infrastructure in Gujarat (BIG) 2020 — prepared by the Gujarat Infrastructure Development Board (GIDB) says the proposed Casino Zone will offer facilities like all types of gambling for entertainment (barring speculative activity, for example bet on cricket matches). The document, however, makes it clear that such activities would be restricted up to the delineated area and bars, subject to conditionality of the law.
With plans to have an 19-hole world-class golf course and a seven-star hotel and three budget hotels, the area will also have other recreation facilities like discotheques, spa, restaurants, theatre, library, swimming pools, gymnasium and a state-of-the art hospital providing all medical treatments to encourage medical tourism, says the official document. Restaurants would offer international cuisines along with the traditional Kutchi and Kathaiwadi cuisines.
Keeping in mind the corporate honchos and executives visiting the fast developing Kutch region in the wake of the 2001 killer quake in Gujarat, it is proposed in the document to create a corporate and community zone called “The Arena” that will offer a multitude of large and small venues facilitating business meets, seminars, conferences and commercial shows. Besides, a Desert Safari with special jeeps and camel rides akin to the ones available in Dubai is planned to be introduced under the Indus Oasis project. Also, a huge water body is proposed to be constructed at varied depths to facilitate all types of water games including skiing, motor sports and swimming. And to provide the experience of sea coast, an artificial mechanism called “Bay of Waves” along with artificial beach will be created there.
Khadir is a desert island oasis surrounded by salt pans and located in the Greater Rann of Kutch. The famous ruins of Indus Valley Civilization site of Dholavira were excavated on this island. Khadir is connected with the NH8 at Gandhidham through the State Highway, and located at a distance of 120 km from the nearest airport at Bhuj — the district headquarters of Kutch. “Although Khadir is remotely located from the key urban centers… offerings of leisure and entertainment would help attract domestic as well as foreign tourists in this zone,” a senior government official told India Tribune on September 9.