Atithi devo bhava (a guest is equivalent to god)–the idea that perpetuates the Indian culture is also the approach with which we are meant to welcome tourists in the country.
As much as we talk about Incredible India, defined by its diversity and multicultural hues, welcoming tourists to destinations is not just about making them revel in the beauty of the land. The gracious hospitality that we boast of also entails a bigger responsibility of ensuring the visitors’ safety.
To promote a destination as safe and tourist-friendly is of foremost priority and that’s exactly how tourism minister K J Alphons wants to project India to every potential visitor. In fact, he recently went to the extent of citing the mass shooting incident at Las Vegas, to claim India to be ”one of the safest countries” in the world.
If only such a statement could change reality for us, we would be more than eager to agree with the minister. But we can’t, because past cases don’t seem to tally with the minister’s opinion.
The ”stories” about India being unsafe for tourists are ”exaggerated”, believes the tourism minister. We wonder what he means, when one of the most popular tourist destinations, Goa, registered cases of 245 foreigner tourist deaths in the last 12 years, as reported by The Guardian.
To say that debates around crimes against tourists are only blown out of proportion is to undermine those cases of rape, murder and other assaults that tourists, especially foreigners, are frequently subjected to in the country. Perhaps we need to remind the minister of the allegedgang rape of an American woman in New Delhi, last December, or that of a Japanese tourist in Rajasthan, in 2015, or may be an Israeli tourist’s alleged rape in Manali, in 2016, to name only a few.
According to a report by National Crime Records Bureau, a total of 384 cases of crime against foreign tourists were registered during 2014, constituting 79 per cent of total crime against foreigners. Assaults constituted rape, forgery, theft, cheating and ”intent to outrage [a woman’s] modesty.”
It’s not without a reason that foreign tourists are provided safety manuals by media et al, before setting foot in India. A crime is detested by its very act; comparing it to other incidents of mass assault like that of Las Vegas or anti-tourism protests in Europe, just to prove how safe India is, only comes across as downright inhuman.
This makes us contemplate if India is really a safe tourist destination. This, we say, even while acknowledging the efforts made by the government towards ensuring safety like help lines, adoption of code of conduct or sensitisation campaigns.
Yet, we are optimistic and hope to continue our strife towards making India a safer place. Only then would we be able to make such dauntless declarations, dear minister.