FOLLOWING a surge in the number of attacks on foreign tourists in India, the country's tourism ministry has exhorted state and union territory authorities to set up tourist police as soon as possible.
The ministry said tourist police could be culled from the police department or ex-servicemen, and that cases involving tourists should be investigated immediately and trials sped up.
An awareness campaign sensitising travel service providers towards the safety needs of female tourists, was another of the ministry’s suggestions floated at last week’s national tourism conference in New Delhi and attended by 23 tourism ministers.
“We need to instill confidence among foreign tourists coming to India. The safety and security of tourists is of utmost importance to us and I expect all the states and union territories will consider deploying tourist police,” said K Chiranjeevi, India’s tourism minister.
At present, 13 states have tourist police. Inbound travel to India plunged 25 per cent in April as female travellers shunned India (TTG Asia e-Daily, April 2, 2013) and Western nations issued travel advisories against the country (TTG Asia e-Daily, March 22, 2013) after a spate of high-profile rape cases.
Iqbal Mulla, president, Travel Agents Association of India, applauded the ministry’s calls: “Of late, a lot of negative publicity has been generated about the safety and security of foreign tourists in India. The move by the tourism ministry has come at the right time and I hope that all the Indian states will soon form tourist police.”
Brijmohan Agarwal, tourism minister, Chhattisgarh, said his state would consider setting up tourist police.
However, PP Khanna, director, Diplomatic Travel Point, said: “Tourist police alone cannot ensure the safety of tourists. The change will come when every citizen of the country is educated to respect foreign tourists coming to India and is made sensitive to their well-being.”
At the same time, Chiranjeevi also pointed out that India’s high taxes were driving tourists to neighbouring destinations instead, and urged the states and union territories to discuss the rationalisation of taxes with their finance ministry.