According to Mahesh Sharma, India’s Union Minister of State for Tourism and Culture, a new law could make it illegal for beggars and ticket touts to touch tourists. The regulation comes in light of a recent article by The Times of India, an Indian English-language daily newspaper, which reported an overall decrease in the number of tourist visits to various attractions through out the country.
The Taj Mahal, specifically, experienced a 10% decrease, despite being one of India’s most famous attractions. Furthermore, there has also been an increase in the number of complaints on online forums, and directly to tourism officials about the harassment – likely as the result of the growth in crime against women. In 2012, for example, the brutal rape and death of a 23-year-old student on a bus in Delhi received worldwide media coverage, which severely hindered the tourism industry.
Thus, in an effort to counteract these events, Sharma has proposed several regulations, insisting that there “will be tough action against touts who are found harassing tourists coming from outside.”
One conceivable option is to set up various tourist facility centers through out the city. Sharma also hopes to make tourist taxis more secure by installing electronic chips that would essentially track the vehicles’ movements. This measure, although costly, could potentially be beneficial for both domestic and international travelers.
“The first checkpoint is that after tourists disembark at our airports, we will give them the option of traveling by chip-enabled taxis, which would be secured. The complete bio-data of the taxi drivers will be available with us. It will be implemented in three months,” he said.
‘The minister is aware of the hardships faced by tourists, especially women. He expressed concern and said a new law would be implemented to make harassment of tourists a crime,’ said Rajiv Tiwari, president of the Federation of Travel Associations of Agra.
‘Many tourists, both domestic and foreign, who visit the Taj Mahal return home feeling cheated, threatened and abused. Touts, guides, auto and taxi drivers, besides hotel owners, pounce on every opportunity to make a quick buck, and have no scruples in misleading and misinforming visitors to extract money.’