Plan to draft ex-armymen to tackle tourist related crimes

March 12th, 2008 - 11:48 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Ambika Soni

New Delhi, March 12 (IANS) The government plans to form a tourist-friendly security organisation manned by former army personnel to effectively tackle harassment and misbehaviour in places frequented by foreigners, Tourism Minister Ambika Soni said here Wednesday. The move comes in the wake of the suspected rape and murder of a 15-year-old British tourist girl in Goa.

Expressing her concern at “unfortunate incidents” involving foreign tourists, Soni said her ministry was proposing the formation of a separate group to tackle the issue.

Apprising members of the National Tourism Advisory Council (NTAC), a think tank comprising experts from various fields, including representatives of industry associations, Soni said 10 states have already deployed tourist police and some more would follow suit.

The British girl was found dead Feb 18 at Goa’s Anjuna beach village, known since the 1960s as a major hippy haunt.

The NTAC, which also has members from various ministries including finance, culture, and external affairs, advises the government on various aspects of promoting tourism in the country.

Soni, who chaired the first meeting of the reconstituted NTAC, hoped for better inter-ministerial coordination for promotion and growth of the tourism sector.

She said India hosted five million tourists in 2007 and earned foreign exchange worth $12 billion.

She said that the issue of ‘visa on arrival’ has been taken up with the home ministry, which has assured tourism authorities that a decision on this would be taken once the upgradation of airports was complete.

The minister said that 20 mega tourist destinations have been identified across the country and financial assistance would be enhanced to states for their integrated development in convergence with other schemes of central and state governments.

Introduction of more luxury tourist trains and bed and breakfast scheme for budget home-stay accommodation were some of the steps taken by the ministry to make India a better tourist destination, Soni said.

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