With a Pongal holidays ahead, what better way to spend a day with your family than to visit the India Tourist Industrial Fair 2011 at the Island Grounds?

The 37 {+t} {+h} edition of the annual fair is not only a place to unwind and be merry, but it also gives one an opportunity to soak in the rich culture and tradition of the State and know about the initiatives that the government has taken for the welfare of its citizens.

The sprawling grounds is host to 43 stalls — 41 put up by various State Government departments and undertakings and two (Port Trust and Railways) by the Central Government.

The Tourism Department's stall is surely a crowd puller. Modelled after the Mudumalai sanctuary, it exhibits replicas of the wildlife found there. Caves, waterfalls, hills and images of thick forestry, combined with audio visual effects in the form of trumpeting of elephants and roaring of wild beasts add to the charm.

Another highlight is the stall, put up for the first time by the Department for the Welfare of Differently-abled. It displays information about schemes for these people and exhibits callipers, folding wheel chairs, two wheelers and sewing machines that could be used by the physically challenged. Kids can also have some fun by visiting the sensory integration room there. The Ministry of Socail Justice and Empowerment has also made its presence felt for the first time. The pavilion showcases products from around the country. The Metrowater department stall even does free water testing for the visitors, while the Family Welfare department carries out blood testing for free.

The Slum Clearance Board's pavilion, in the form of a multi-storeyed building with a modern see-through lift reflects the government plan to provide such housing for slum dwellers. The Rural Development and Panchayat Raj stall explains the various welfare schemes for the poor, including employment guarantee schemes through life size models of villagers engaged in typical activities.

A major draw is the HR & CE pavilion depicting various temples in the State. Visitors are also allowed to enjoy virtual tours of historic temples. Prasadams from different temples are given daily.

For those bent on pure enjoyment, there are numerous stalls selling products from fancy hair clips to saris and shawls. Foodies can binge on bajjis, chats, biryanis and giant appalams. There are umpteen game stalls and those offering scary adventure for kids. The amusement complex has several new rides such as water boats, fantasy boats that will make your head spin, merry cup and merry go round.

Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation officials said a major focus of this year's fair is on environment protection. Environment friendly messages such as “Avoid littering” are put up everywhere and announcements in this regard are also made at regular intervals. The fair is also disabled-friendly as most stalls have ramps. There are plans to organise contests for children and adults at the venue.

Last year, about 17 lakh people visited the fair. In view of the new attractions here, officials are hoping to increase profit from Rs. two crores last year to Rs. 2.65 crores this year. The government has made arrangements for plying additional buses from all places in the city to the fair.

Saraswathy Srinivasan

(See also picture gallery — Page 4)

State Government departments and undertakings have put up more than 40 stalls at the Island Grounds.