Recently, most liberal-left, neutral and pink papers carried an article on Sam Pitroda’s famous line “temples do not create jobs”, delivered to a group of impressionable minds in Karnavati University.
This, from Scroll, for example.
Even if one were swimming in the stratosphere, one would know the association that Pitroda has with the Congress. He was Rajiv Gandhi’s go-to man for all things IT. He has also served as an advisor to former PM Dr.Manmohan Singh. A cursory search on the net will reveal his American education (Illinois Institute of Technology) and his long-standing association with INC over decades.
So, it is fair to assume that Pitroda, unlike some others in Congress is not a bumbling idiot, fumbling his way through issues that he does not fully comprehend. Why then would he make such a factually erroneous economic statement. To justify its claim to obfuscation let us examine some statistics from across the world:
In the year 2017 the holy city of Jerusalem, received over 3.5 million Jews, Christians and Muslims. This was a 25% increase over 2016 tourist influx, contributing a record $5.5 billion to the Israeli economy. One naturally assumes that this inflow of tourists to Jerusalem year on year must have generated a plethora of jobs for the aviation, hospitality and the local tourist sector of the city. How many jobs must have been thus created? The tourism industry in Israel employs over 2 lakh people or 6% of the workforce of Israel.
As of 2013, the annual Haj event, which sees millions of followers of Islam descend on the holy city of Mecca, generated $16.5 billion or around 3% of Saudi Arabian GDP. This horde of tourists in all probability gave a huge fillip, over the years, to the local industries, air travel, hospitality to the location. One can only hazard a guess about the number of jobs and the cascading effect on the local economy of the region. Some estimates have suggested that the revenue generated through Haj pilgrim visit, related expenditure, will exceed $150 Billion by the year 2022.
Although not widely known, the Vatican City economy based on the contribution from Roman Catholics worldwide, the sale of mementoes, the sale of publications and tourist tickets for museum visits, generated a total revenue of $315 million in the year 2013. This earning is without taking into account the multiplier effect on the airline, hospitality sector for the Vatican.
Back home, in the year 2013, the world’s richest Tirupati Balaji temple in AP, received 206.8 million domestic tourists, pushing the state to the top of the tourist destination table.
As of 2012, tourism.com had estimated that world religious travel one of the fastest growing segments in travel, would double by the year 2020, making it one of the largest contributors of economic prosperity.
One can go on and on citing examples of thriving religious-tourism across the world, that has provided employment to large chunks of humanity, irrespective of their caste, creed and religious affiliations. Yet Mr Pitroda in all his bombastic righteousness has singled out that “Temples do not create jobs”.
We can assume that his denials have something to do with “Temples” and not religion-based tourism per say. In the backdrop of the Ram Temple deliberations, this remark can even be construed as a direct attack on the Ram temple. Coming after the recent Hindu-Pakistan, Congress for Muslims comments made by his colleagues in INC, should this remark be taken as a validation of the anti-Hindu, anti-Ram temple bigotry frequently displayed by the members of the Grand Old Party of India?
It is also intriguing that this statement by Sam Pitroda comes right after Rahul was reported to have been apologetic about his temple visits in a meeting of Muslim Intellectuals. One wonders if this is ‘damage control’ by the Congress considering their core vote bank is indeed, the minorities.