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Goody puts Govt in dilemma

Tourism ministry seeks explanation from London and Ireland tourism offices for inviting the TV star to India.

india Updated: Jan 25, 2007 16:06 IST

The Indian government finds itself in an unusual dilemma — of playing host to British TV star Jane Goody, who has accepted an official invitation to visit India after hurling racist abuses at actress Shilpa Shetty in the show Celebrity Big Brother.

Tourism Minister Ambika Soni's office in New Delhi has already sought an explanation from the tourism office in London and Ireland for issuing an advertisement inviting Goody to India.

"The minister was not at all aware of the advertisement or the invitation. She does not know who asked the UK office to put out such an advertisement," said an official in the minister's office.

The advertisement in London papers asked Goody, who later apologised to Shetty, to visit the country and experience its healing nature.

Responding with alacrity, the former dental nurse, who has been voted out of the reality show that features a group of celebrities cooped up in a house, approached the Indian high commission in London for a visa.

The Indian government is at a loss and doesn't know quite what to do.

"How can the tourism office invite a person against whom our foreign office had expressed disapproval?" asked a senior Congress leader.

"The tourism ministry should have contacted others before making such a move," he added.

Government officials fear that Goody's arrival could create serious trouble for them.

"Through television channels, everyone in India knows every detail about the controversy. Goody is not a star who will attract welcoming crowds. People will be hostile."

"And since she has accepted the ministry's invitation, we are bound to provide protection to her. How can we do it? She cannot be a state guest? She cannot just come and go unnoticed. The media will not let it happen," an official said.

Officially, the tourism ministry says that its foreign offices are free to advertise on their own.

"Our offices abroad are free to give advertisements," said Amitabh Kant, a joint secretary in the tourism ministry.

Although Kant insisted that it would not be proper for him to make any comment on the issue, he said: "Anybody who can obtain a visa can visit the country."

Some in the tourism ministry are asking what is the big deal.

"The advertisement was for everyone and our country welcomes everyone to enjoy our culture and experience," said one official who does not want to be named.

"Why should Jade Goody be given special treatment? We need to ensure the safety of all foreigners who visit our country," he said.