As the host of 2010 Commonwealth Games and an aspiring world class city, Delhi's reputation got yet another beating last week when a tourist guide was arrested at a city resort for allegedly attempting to rape a 14-year-old British girl. “This is a big blot on the guide community,” says Ashutosh Sharma, a tourist guide who has shown Delhi to more than 20 head of states, including their daughters, like Chelsea Clinton.
Farooq Alam, another guide who usually deals with English tourists, says, “Such people are not guides, but touts. In this city, every third person a foreigner encounters is a tout.” So, what should the hapless tourist do? “He should only get a licensed guide, one who is approved by the Department of Tourism,” says Alam.
That’s easier said than done… with more than 700 licensed guides in the Capital! “The problem is with the travel companies which hire unapproved guides to save on expenses,” says Satish Kumar Goswami, senior vice-president of the Guide Association of India. But why are touts allowed to function so freely? “In foreign countries, there are heavy penalties for unauthorised guides. But here the rules are too lax,” says Goswami.
However, if you happen to be a tourist reading this report, you could save yourself from any possible risk by demanding your guide his license. You can even skip the services of your travel agency or hotel and call up the Guide Association of India (271-30-967) which would promptly provide you with a phone list of approved guides. Alternatively, there’s a list of tour operators available on www.incredible.org, the website of the Ministry of Tourism.