Lalita Panicker speaks to Minister for Culture and Tourism Ambika Soni.
Excerpts from the interview:
Your Incredible India campaign seems to have been a huge success. Are you satisfied with how things went?
Indeed, very much so, I am so gratified by the responses. You may recall that we did this in Germany first. In New York, the CII was part of it. We got an opportunity to reach out to the leadership of the world. So many people, both Indians and foreigners, told our people how they were thrilled with this show. I also wanted to showcase regional culture and artistes who normally don’t get a chance to be in the limelight.
Despite showcasing India, do you not think that incidents of rape and molestation like the recent one involving Japanese tourists, not to mention fleecing and overcharging, takes a bit of the shine off Incredible India?
Yes, I am concerned about this. We have been addressing these unhappy incidents. I absolutely will not tolerate these incidents. Even one such incident in my eyes is unbearable. We have been pleading with state governments to put in place a tourist police. Around 12 states have constituted this already.
In your own ministry, are you doing something to institutionalise all this?
Yes, we have a cell in the ministry. I have made it clear that if a tourist is fleeced, or given a wrong package, there is no way I will go soft on this. I know law and order is a state subject but there is an issue of vulnerability of tourists and I have insisted that action be taken by the authorities concerned.