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Minister of State for Tourism, Culture and Civil Aviation Dr. Mahesh Sharma said, government wants to cover 150 countries under e-visa scheme by the end of this year.He said while interacting with listeners in Public Speak programme of AIR last night that at the moment the scheme is available for the tourists of 77 countries including China. He said 1,36000 tourists have already taken advantage of the scheme.

The Minister said that foreign tourist arrival has increased by over 10 percent during the last one year as compared to the previous year. He said India earns foreign exchange to the tune of around one lakh 20 thousand crore rupees from tourism annually. He said Prime Minister Narendra Modi is trying to give a special identity to tourism. Mr Sharma said tourism has a multiplier effect as besides enhancing foreign exchange earnings, it helps in generating employment.In reply to another question, Dr. Sharma said, the NDA government has started discussion on opening an airport in the National Capital Region to lessen burden from Delhi Airport.The Tourism Minister said, the Government has launched a special programme for enhancing connectivity in Himalayan states and north east region. He said, government has started work on it under Swadesh Darshan scheme and allocated Rs 120 crore.

He said, work is already in progress at Tehri and Kedarnath in Uttarakhand. He said government wants to connect all places of tourist importance by helicopter service so it can be used by those people who are not in a position to travel by car.Mr Sharma said, all the places related to Lord Rama and Ramayana will be developed as part of Ramayana circuit for which Rs 120 crore have been earmarked.