Kala Ghoda, the old-world cultural treasure trove of Mumbai is, in all likelihood, soon going to be a cultural hub resplendent with glamorous lights, billboards, cartoon and movie characters and street performances. The Ministry of Tourism initiative along with Department of Tourism, Maharashtra plans to re-create the magic of Times Square in South Mumbai’s Kala Ghoda area.
Colloquially named after the black stone statue of King Edward VII on horseback, the informal name somehow stuck with the neighborhood in South Mumbai even as the original statue was removed to Byculla. The cultural remnants of the bygone era, a large number of museums, art galleries, eateries and Victorian-era buildings, continue to adorn the city. The annual Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, with the objective of presenting the heritage art of the area, is the largest multicultural festival in India.
Times Square, on the other hand, a neighborhood in Manhattan, New York, is one of the world’s most famous tourist attractions. It receives over 40 million visitors annually and is one of the major veins of the global entertainment industry.
The proposal is divided into multiple phases, with the Union Ministry of Tourism sanctioning Rs 5 crores for phase – I of the project. However, the total number of phases and the amount of the Central Financial Assistance that would be provided by the Union Ministry was not revealed.
Along with the Rs 5 crore provided by the Centre, the government of Maharashtra would also invest in creating basic infrastructure to facilitate and incentivise simultaneous private investment in the project. The overall vision is to mix entertainment and heritage for visiting tourists as well as the residents of Mumbai. The Ministry plan includes a 15-foot high flag of India, drinking water fountains, advertisements, paid for by corporations, on large electronic billboards, film/cartoon characters for photo ops and street performances.
Maharashtra recorded a 56% increase in the number of Foreign Tourist Arrivals (FTAs) in 2013, seeing over 4.1 million tourists in 2013 as compared to 2.6 million in 2012. It also saw the number of domestic tourists increase from 74.8 million in 2012 to 82.7 million in 2013, recording a 10% growth.
A scheme to project 3-dimensional (3D) images of 36 Indian monuments, one from each State and Union Territory at India Gate, Delhi, is also on the cards. Depending on the success of that project, the Ministry of Tourism will consider similar projections on the Gateway of India, Mumbai.