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Government alarmed, calls meet

The Centre will review safety measures for foreign tourists with the state governments at a high-level meeting on Jan 24, reports HS Bartwal.

india Updated: Jan 11, 2008 04:46 IST
Hemendra Singh Bartwal

Alarmed at frequent reports about crimes against foreign tourists, particularly molestation of women, coming in from different parts of the country, the Centre has decided to review safety and security measures for them with the state governments at a high-level meeting to be convened on January 24.

The latest such incident has been reported from Kumarakom in ‘God’s own country’ Kerala, where two minor girls from Canada on a holiday were molested by a security guard of a hotel. In other very recent cases, a British journalist was allegedly raped by the owner of a guest house in Udaipur and an American tourist was molested at a temple in Pushkar, both being major tourist destinations in Rajasthan.

These incidents have raised serious concern in the Union tourism ministry, which is apprehensive that its high-profile ‘Incredible India’ campaign abroad would be adversely affected by the bad publicity resulting from such cases that create a poor image of the country. Tourism Minister Ambika Soni is said to have taken serious note of several recent incidents of rape and molestation of women foreign tourists in various cities.

Already, several prominent countries, including the US,UK, Australia, Canada and France have issued warnings on the law and order situation here in travel advisories to their citizens planning to visit India. They have specifically warned women tourists about the possibility of physical harassment and molestation in major tourism destinations like Delhi, Agra ,Goa and Himachal Pradesh.

According to official sources, Union Tourism Secretary S.Banerjee has written to tourism secretaries of all states regarding the recent media reports about harassment of women tourists. Reminding them about the Centre’s concern for the safety of foreign as well as domestic tourists, he recalled that the ministry had earlier asked them to deploy special police at popular tourist sites. Only 10 states have acted on the recommendation so far.

Tourism secretaries of various states will meet Soni and other senior officials in New Delhi on January 24 to review tourism projects and other related issues. It has been decided that the safety and security aspect of tourists will be the focus area at the meeting, an official stated.They will try to identify various measures that can be undertaken to provide better protection to foreign visitors, apart from reviewing the effectiveness of the existing ones.