Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh on Saturday denied having any plans to change the name of state capital Shimla and colonial-era landmarks in the state.
The demand for changing names has come from Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP).
After the decision to rename Gurgaon in Haryana as Gurugram was taken by the BJP government, the Himachal unit of VHP had urged the chief minister that “Shimla” be rechristened “Shemalaya” which it claimed was the city’s old name.
Shimla, which served as the summer capital of British India between 1864 and 1939, currently has 91 British-era heritage buildings.
After inaugurating the “Himachal Travel Mart” here, the chief minister said the renaming of Shimla and landmarks associated with the British rule would not be allowed. “Shimla is a well-known tourist destination globally,” he said.
Taking a jibe at the VHP, the octogenarian chief minister said, “Tomorrow they can say that Virbhadra Singh should also be renamed.”
The VHP also said state-run hotel-cum-guest house Peterhoff in Shimla should be renamed “Valmiki Bhawan” and Dalhousie, which was established in 1854 by the British government as a summer retreat, should be named after Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.
Peterhoff was home to seven viceroys during the British Raj. It later housed the Punjab High Court where Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin Nathu Ram Godse was tried. It housed the Raj Bhavan in 1981 when it was gutted in a fire. It was subsequently rebuilt.
Earlier in the morning, the CM inaugurated “Himachal Travel Mart” at the Ridge, Shimla, where apart from Himachal, exhibits for promoting tourism activities of 15 states are being displayed.
Singh said such initiatives went a long way in promoting tourism activities and gave the much-needed fillip to the tourism industry.
On Friday evening, after launching “Himachal Travel Mart” at a local hotel, Singh said efforts were on to realise the true potential of tourism in the state, while taking care to not indiscriminately exploit Himachal’s tourism wealth.
He said apart from coming up with new ropeways, expansion of Kangra airport had been proposed and the initial land acquisition had been done.
Besides, the Jubbarhatti airstrip had also been improved and widened, he added. “We hope that flights will soon be started to and from Shimla as the Supreme Court has directed the central government to start air services to Shimla at the earliest,” he added.
“There has been a consistent increase in tourist arrivals in the state. From January to December 2015, 1.75 crore tourists visited the state with an annual growth rate of 7.46%. The state is yet to fully realise its tourism potential and we are working hard to pursue our goals,” said tourism commissioner Mohan Chauhan, adding that tourism was declared an industry in the state in 1984, and it was contributing about 8.25% to the state gross domestic product.
(With agency inputs)