NEW DELHI: Despite regular reports of increasing incidents of rape of foreign tourists at popular tourist sites, there seems to be clear apathy towards the whole issue of tourist safety in India.
On World Tourism Day, tourism minister Ambika Soni expressed helplessness over dealing with recurring incidents of harassment of tourists saying, “Thefts and crime against travellers are common across the globe. I have been a victim of theft on foreign soil too. Since the police cannot be available everywhere, the tourists need to be careful.”
However, embarrassed by the recent rape cases of Japanese tourists, the tourism ministry said it is going to launch a special awareness campaign to prevent damages to its Incredible India project. “Handle foreigners with care” – is the message with which the tourism ministry would now focus on the safety of foreign travellers.
While the ministry has not specified the elements of the campaign, sources indicated that this would mean streamlining and licensing of tourist guides and sensitisation of taxi drivers and other service providers.
However, there is no action plan ready to crackdown thousands of touts and so-called guides who hang around the tourist places. The minister feels a crackdown would mean “killing of their livelihood.”
Soni has asked the state governments to station tourist police at all prominent tourist places. “About 16 states have pulled out personnel from their regular police teams to form a special tourism police cell,” Soni said. But she agrees that mere policing would not help.
“There is a need for awareness and sensitisation as well,” she added. Soni also wants more women cabbies on road. “Mumbai has already taken a lead in this regard and the rest of the nation has to catch up now,” she said.
According to the tourism ministry statistics, total tourist inflow during January-June, 2007, stood at 23,86,887 as against 21,32,174 last year.