Our MPs are very concerned about anything adversely affecting India’s tourism industry – as they should be. In December 2014, Mahesh Sharma, Union Minister for Tourism announced a new tourism action plan that would include better security arrangements for tourists. We even feel that a documentary on the December 16 gangrape will hit tourism badly.

That actual rapes and not documentaries may be affecting tourism, is besides the point.

So imagine you’re a foreigner planning a trip to India. You ignore your country’s travel advisory on India – especially the bit aimed at women travellers:

UK government: “Avoid travelling alone on public transport, or in taxis or auto-rickshaws, especially at night. Try to avoid hailing taxis on the street. If you’re being collected at the airport by a hotel driver make sure they have properly identified themselves before you set off.”

Representational image. Reuters.Representational image. Reuters.

Representational image. Reuters.

US government – “Women should observe stringent security precautions, including avoiding use of public transport after dark without the company of known and trustworthy companions, restricting evening entertainment to well-known venues, and avoiding isolated areas when alone at any time of day. Keep your hotel room number confidential and make sure hotel room doors have chains, deadlocks, and peep holes. When possible, travel around the area with groups of friends rather than alone.”

Or even Lonely Planet – “You’re very unlikely to experience violent crime as a woman traveller in India; it’s sexual harassment that you may experience – more so in tourist towns and larger cities in the north of the country. Rude comments, voyeurism, and men ‘brushing against’ or groping women are all common.”

But you are made of sterner stuff, and feel that all that matters is that the government should be keeping an eye out for its tourists. And as long as that’s the case, you need not worry. So you do a Google search to see what security measures the government has in place for foreigners and tourists, and you come upon the Karnataka government’s latest way of showing their love for tourists.

The Karnataka government, in all its wisdom, has decided that foreigners in the state can only party under the watchful eyes of the police. It has been reported that a gazette notification was issued on February 26, which states that organisers of parties need to “organise programmes that are in tune with Indian culture and tradition”.

What this culture and tradition is has not been specified. Also, throwing a party requires permission from district-level committees headed by the deputy commissioner. Permission which will only be given after revealing “the project cost, source of funding, names of advertisers and the event schedule”. How many people constitutes a party, is once again not specified.

There are a slew of other rules as well. “All parties and music shows should end by 10 pm; organisers should provide all details of foreigners who will be participating in the event at the time of obtaining permission; officials from the tourism and police departments should be allowed to videograph and photograph the show/party”. Tourists are also prohibited from staying back/sleeping at the venue after the event is over.

It’s good to see the Karnataka government’s great concern about Indian culture and tradition. In fact, the last time I remember hearing the phrases “Karnataka government” and “inappropriate behaviour” mentioned in the same breath, was when a BJP MLA was found zooming in on a picture of Priyanka Gandhi on his phone, while sitting in the legislative assembly. And before that there were the Karnataka MLAs apparently watching blue films in the assembly and doing a fine job of upholding Indian culture. Maybe this deep insight into inappropriate behaviour by the BJP is behind the Karnataka government’s latest move, to uphold the virtues of the land.

Bangalore Mirror has quoted a tourism department official as saying that “these rules are meant to end display of sleaze in the state”. Of course, that videotaping foreigners or anyone for no legitimate reason is borderline voyeurism has escaped the state tourism department. Also, it would be good to know who will be monitoring these videos and how they will be stored. It is also not clear what behaviour is kosher under Indian culture and tradition.

So what do you think would dissuade you from visiting India – and specifically Karnataka? Would it be a documentary being shown on BBC Four about a gangrape which took place in December 2012? Or would it be the fact that a state government views you, a tourist, as antisocial and will be videotaping and photographing you at parties in the state? I’m hazarding a guess that it would be the latter. Way to go Karnataka. If the rapes and lack of women’s safety in India don’t keep tourists away, your Big Brother gaze surely will.

Credit – 

Adarsh bharatiya party: Karnataka govt to monitor parties foreign tourists attend