Tourists flock in but slugfest between Tourism Council and panchayat stalls beach development

The Cherai beach is invitingly calm, serene and the wind is exciting too. But the scuffle over the years between the District Tourism Promotion Council (DTCP) and the Pallipuram grama panchayat is holding up development of Cherai beach.

The Tourism Department claims that the beach got its place on the tourism map because it promoted the beach, but the panchayat alleges that neither the Tourism Department nor the DTPC has done anything to prop up Cherai.

The activity within the 200 metre area currently run by DTPC has few facilities to tap the potential the beach offers. The authorities are yet to put up even dustbins to keep the beach litter-free.

Interestingly, both the DTPC and the panchayat blame each other for not having proper infrastructure at the beach. The scuffle has led to the panchayat claiming that they are the owners of the 200 metre area marked out by DTPC on the beach. “The land was given to DTPC for beach development but they have done nothing,” said panchayat president Chinnamma Dharman to The Hindu.

DTPC secretary T. N. Jayasankar told The Hindu that no beach-related project could be implemented because of the interference of the “local goons”.

He alleged that a local committee is running a library in the area as a cover for commercial activity too. The DTPC is not allowed to construct any tourism promotional infrastructure. Though there is a tourist police station under construction, DTPC has not been allowed any activity, he added.

The DTPC incurs about Rs. 1 lakh maintainance bill a month in the area where there is no revenue generation. It comes from paying for electricity for lighting up the beach till 11 p.m. every day, a 24-hour security posted in the area, Kudumbashree workers who clean up the area and two supervisors.

Mr. Jayasankar said plan to introduce beach buggies and horse riding failed because of local interference. The tourists who visit Cherai did not spend more time on the beach as there was nothing to keep them engaged, said Mr. Jayasankar.

The tourism department has deployed lifeguards for the security of the visitors on the beach. However, since the job provides no incentives, many have left the job, said one of the life guards on the job. “The duty hours are from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Even the comfort station that has been provided is a make-shift arrangement.” Of the 24 lifeguards in the district, about half of them are sent to the mini Pampa at Kuttippuram in Malappuram district during the Sabarimala season.

The locals do not think there is a shortage of security as they believe that the police are only a call away. There are two security persons who alternate between day and night shifts.

Unmindful of the undercurrents, the visitors make the most of what is available — the sand and the sea water caressing them.

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