Foreign Tourists :Security: More needs to be done

      If India wants to be an attractive tourist destination, it has to do more to ensure the security and well-being of tourists.

     All tourists cannot be expected to be state guests, or 5 star hotel hoppers with private security details and chaperoned by government security men.

     India must cater to the average tourist and the back packer equally graciously.State governments must do more than what they are doing now.

      Recent incidents in Kerala and Rajastan have drawn adverse criticism from all.

      One good thing the media has done is to vociferously highlight the problems of tourists in the ladt three weeks. So much so even the Ministry of Tourism in the Central Government has commenced to take notice.One also heard the official from Kerala emphasising need for ensuring a safe passage for tourists in Kerala. 

Some extracts on the subject of Safety for Tourists . Ed           

Special cops no help for tourists

  There actually are men in uniform getting salaries from taxpayers’ money to inform foreign tourists about places to avoid and protect them from thieves, touts and thugs in New Delhi. But the Delhi Police’s wing, called the Tourist Police force and raised in November 2004, are hardly visible.
     The recent spate of crime, including rape and murder of foreign tourists, particularly in the dingy shanties of Paharganj, has brought to the Tourist Police back on focus. Although serious crimes like rape and murder are rare, police records say at least two cases of snatching of valuables from foreign tourists are reported every week.

       So far as fleecing is concerned, foreigners are the most vulnerable. “They are targeted by the taxi mafia at airports. Besides, touts in markets in Connaught Place and Chandni Chowk trap them,” a police officer said.

      Amid all these incidents, the Tourist Police have only 84 personnel to provided security to foreign tourists. Delhi is an important tourist destination and many of the 4.3 million people who visited India last year — up from 3.92 million in 2005 — stopped here en route to other destinations like Agra and Jaipur.

     Though the tourists flow has increased, only 10 police control room vans are currently operating in the Capital’s 10 primary locations — the international airport, New Delhi railway station, Hazrat Nizamuddin railway station, Raj Ghat, Red Fort, Qutub Minar, Palika Bazar, Janpath, India Gate and Paharganj.

     Each vehicle has a team of four — a sub-inspector, a head constable, a woman constable and a driver — working in two shifts. The force adds up to a mere 84.

     Police say necessary assistance is provided to international as well as domestic tourists. “They (Tourist Police) give free city maps, literature on Delhi, auto and taxi fair charts, locations of historical monuments and a list of emergency numbers,” says Rajan Bhagat, the Delhi Police public relations officer.

     Delhi Police help their counterparts in Tourist Police in nabbing touts and snatchers. “We generally transfer the cases of cheating or snatching to the local police. Our job is to provide necessary information about the place,” a tourist policeman at Janpath says.

     “The foreign tourists are vulnerable because they hardly have any information about Delhi, especially the markets and other destinations. They become easy prey of touts,” an officer says. 

By Pratul Sharma in New Delhi

 Alarmed Centre calls states for a save-image meet

       Alarmed by incidents of violence against foreign tourists, the Centre has called a meeting of state tourism secretaries on January 24 to find out ways to tackle the crisis.
      The Union tourism ministry is likely to ask the states to take a number of steps for ensuring security to the tourists. Tourism secretary Shilabhadra Banerjee has already written to the states about the ministry’s fears of losing visitors from abroad because of the growing incidents of harassment to women tourists.

     The attacks are embarrassing for a country that prides itself for its hospitality and hardsells the clichéd Sanskrit adage: Atithi Devobhava or “guest is god”. It dents the country’s image in the backdrop of two prestigious awards — “Country of the Year” by Conde Nast and WTA’s “Asia’s best destination” – that it won last year

        The recent rape of a British journalist in Udaipur and similar cases in UP, Goa and Delhi sent the alarm bells ringing. The Centre fears that the tourism industry, which is currently witnessing an upswing, will suffer serious reverses if crime against foreigners is not immediately checked.
The country received an all-time high of five million foreign tourists in 2007, compared to 4.45 million the previous year. It is a growth rate of over 12 per cent. Likewise, earnings in foreign exchange in 2007 touched US $11.96 billion, as against US $8.93 billion in 2006 — an increase of 33.8 per cent.

       Despite the rapes and robberies, the Centre can only play an advisory role because safety (law and order) of tourists is a state subject.      “The ministry had asked the states to raise tourist police battalions. Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Goa, Kerala, Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi already have such forces. The rest should also follow,” a senior officer said.
Apart from discussing issues like improving infrastructure in the respective states, the state secretaries will be asked to formulate policies in cooperation with the police force for protecting foreigners from thieves, thugs and letches.
       There are also proposals to constitute a central regulatory authority for addressing complaints filed by tourists. The panel will have the task of monitoring the services provided by the state agencies.

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