India, this year, ranked 54th in the global travel and tourism development index, down from 46th in 2019. One of the key, open-ended issues causing this drop was the safety and security of the tourists. As per the statement issued by the Ministry of Tourism, it had taken up the matter with all the state governments/UT Admins in the past and reiterated the aspect of providing a safe and secure environment to tourists.
Going forward with the thought of eliminating India’s poor perception with regards to safety, the Ministry of Tourism on October 19, organised a National Conference on Tourist Police Scheme with the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D) in New Delhi.
Highlighting the need to implement Uniform Tourist Police Scheme, the Ministry invited the Director Generals/ Inspector Generals of Police Department of all states/UTs as well as the industry stakeholders to discuss and strategise the safety and security guidelines that need to be implemented on the ground, ensuring the development of tourist specific policing in all the states.
“The country where the law and order are in place, the tourist inflow improves and thrives,” said Chief Guest, Om Birla, Lok Sabha Speaker, calling for quicker police action in case of crimes against tourists.
Emphasising upon the importance of ensuring safety and security to the incoming tourists, he said, a concrete plan needs to be created to win the trust of the tourist with regard to safety and security.
He suggested developing of a multilingual mobile application that would act as a one-stop solution for tourists visiting India and seeking relevant information related to their destinations in multiple languages. This app, he said, would ensure safe and comfortable travel by providing updated and complete information about emergency helplines, hotels, taxis, guides and more facilities offering tourist police assistance whenever needed.
He also stressed upon the need to train guides and tourist police in different languages as well as offer them hands-on knowledge of updated technology which would help ease the tourist’s movement.
“These steps, if strategised and implemented in the right manner, would increase the confidence of tourists and create a good environment for tourism,” Birla said.
The Ministry of Tourism in a statement said that it had raised concern regarding the implementation of states/UTs Tourist Police with MHA on different occasions. At the request of MHA, a list of 25 destinations has already been forwarded to them for deploying tourist police at those destinations as a pilot project.
Upon the suggestions of the Ministry of Tourism, some state governments have also put the Tourist Police system in place in one form or another. However, there remains variation at the policy and implementation levels.
Birla further praised the establishment of tourism police by several state governments and advised all the states and the central government to share best practices among themselves and create better synergy in developing India into a safe tourist destination.
Addressing the conference, the Minister of Tourism, Culture & DONER, G Kishan Reddy highlighted that safety and security stand as major concerns when it comes to achieving the goals of making India a leading global destination.
Highlighting the government’s focus on creating safe, responsible and sustainable tourism in India (which he said, are the propelling tools for the upcoming National Tourism Policy 2022), he condemned the crime/ incidents at some of the tourist places and asked the police administration to deal with them forcefully. He also asked the states to take up responsibility for operationalising best safety practices.
“We should have a zero-tolerance policy for such incidents threatening the safety of tourists and tarnishing the country’s image, therefore, our urgent action through proper systems in place will matter,” he said.
The tourist police’s proper training in this regard would matter the most, he added.
MoS Tourism, Shripad Yesso Naik while sharing some figures informed that the tourism sector contributes around 5.02 per cent of India’s GDP and has supported around 14.87 per cent of total direct and indirect employment during the Financial Year 2018-19 with Foreign Exchange Earnings of INR2.12 lakh crore (USD 30 billion) in Indian Economy during 2019.
Even though tourism in India has contributed significantly to making India the 5th largest economy in the world, we are yet to optimise its full potential, Naik pointed out.
Balaji Srivastava, Director General, Bureau of Police Research & Development (BPR&D) spoke on the Tourist Police Scheme and how it is designed to boost the safety & security-related perception of India at the global level.
During the conference, a report on ‘Tourist Police Scheme’ prepared by BPR&D was also discussed and its key findings and recommendations were shared. These findings and recommendations are expected to create an enabling framework for tourist safety once implemented at the pan-India level.
The report that has details on developing the Scheme for Tourist Police also cover issues such as the development of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), the setting up of Control Room Systems, the role and responsibility of Tourist Police, distinct uniforms for Tourist Police personnel, training programmes, incentivisation for Tourist Police and more.
Concluding the conference, Secretary of Tourism Arvind Singh said that India’s global tourism indications will go up by improving the safety and security aspects of tourism and would go a long way in making India a favourable global tourist destination.
“I hope that this conference will help in establishing better synergy and convergence that will result in the successful implementation of the tourist police scheme to strengthen security and safety at tourist destinations as well as improve the confidence of travellers in India,” Singh said.
Various tourism stakeholders also spoke about relevant issues such as deputing the tourist police at destinations other than just popular spots, sensitisation of the police officials towards tourists, the need for training, availability of tourist police at the bigger conferences and more.
Success story presentations of tourist police schemes made by the officials from Rajasthan, Kerala, UP, Goa and Meghalaya were shared during the conference, even as they put forth their demands seeking monetary and logistics support to aid the scheme on the state level.
Gayatri Rathore, Principal Secretary of Rajasthan Tourism Department, Dr LR Bishnoi, DGP of Meghalaya, Ashwini Kumar Pandey, Director Tourism of Uttar Pradesh, Neeraj Gupta, DG of Kerala and Shobhit Saxena IPS, Superintendent of Police (North Goa) were the speaking representatives.