India is indeed incredible and the message is being beamed loud and clear right across the globe. Festival after festival in world capitals have showcased India’s splendour — culture, natural heritage, cuisine, spiritual journeys and all the ‘magic’ that draws foreigners to India. The current ‘India@60’ in New York is a mega-event on a different scale altogether, led as it is by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and 30 CEOs of topnotch Indian corporates, camping in New York to talk about the changing face of India. This time round, it’s all about making India matter for investors and tourists alike. Said Sunil Mittal, Bharti Group’s Chairman and President of the CII, “The one thing I’ve learnt about America is that it works on signals. This event is meant to generate positive signals around India.”
Enriching as that may be, it is unfortunate that some of these signals go horribly wrong for tourists visiting India. Far too frequently there are cases of tourists being attacked, fleeced, raped, even murdered. The most recent incident of two Japanese women held hostage and raped over four days in Agra is just one more case in the growing list of abuse against foreigners visiting India. Two weeks ago, a Spanish cyclist spent 19 days in jail in Leh. In India to participate in a cycling expedition to spread environmental awareness, J.E. Garcia had to be hospitalised even as his visa expired. He found no support from the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) or the local police and was promptly jailed. Abysmal security systems, a free hand to touts and a complete lack of a tourist management network among the various authorities form a vicious nexus where the tourist pays dearly. The signals that attract tourists to India, the ‘hospitality’ chorus not the least of the ‘givens’, can rapidly go wrong in our cities. The administration seems to hang up disclaimer notices — we are not responsible for your safety — along with the welcome signs.
This casual attitude and hand-wringing can only worsen matters for an India on the go, ready to show the world its time has come. Experience India, we tell the world. We should at least be able to guarantee that they return home in one piece to spread goodwill about India.