Sunday, June 20, 2021

SC on tourism

The importance of tourism to promote economy of a country cannot be countered by any account especially when it concerns a special segment, that of tourists from other countries. That involves earning precious foreign exchange and furthering the scope of visiting tourists getting an insight of and a varied introduction to various aspects of a host country, i.e. cultural, social, literary and historical richness. Monuments, forts, historical symbols and ruins, archaeological remains, inscriptions, sculptures and the like, have unique features for tourists, who to know more about, visit to physically see them whereby tourism in the real sense takes place. India is a treasure of such objects, to evince interest and a reason for foreign tourists to visit and prove in turn as an economic multiplier, the effect of which can be felt by increase in income as a result of spending by visiting tourists. We know that incomes are rising everywhere in the globe, of course with varying degrees, and that in turn improves the propensity to spend. Spending on tours and travelling to visit countries and spots with tourism potential, takes place primarily due to this basic economic factor which to promote and exploit, we must make use of every opportunity and ensure that the tourist inflow increased every year. This fact of economic behaviour on account of spending was implicitly referred to recently by a Bench of Supreme Court comprising Justices Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta in connection with fewer than expected foreign tourists visiting India. This, the Bench said in connection with not more tourists visiting Taj Mahal. A comparison was drawn by the Supreme Court with the Eiffel Tower of Paris which was “drawing eight times more tourists than the Taj Mahal at Agra”. The Court, while making the comparison said that while only 10 million foreign tourists had visited India last year, Paris was thronged by 80 million of them. The Court opined that Eiffel stood nothing in comparison to Taj but 80 million people go there observing that “You can destroy the Taj, we do not want to do it”. The Bench asked Additional Solicitor General (ASG) appearing for the Centre as to how many tourists come to India in a year. On hearing from the ASG, the Bench observed, “We are happy to have 10 million people”. The apex Court has been monitoring developments in the area of protecting the said monument at Agra. The white marble mausoleum is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Court also wanted to know from the ASG as to how much income was collected from tourists visiting Taj Mahal and observed that “part of the income generated from this monument has to be considered in this income.” The apex Court was informed that the Union Tourism Ministry could give more details about the tourists visiting India, in response to which the Court observed, “They will not bother, why they will bother about tourists”. The Court underlined the loss to the country due to the “sheer lethargy, foreign exchange, infrastructure, everything is lost due to this, there is a loss to tourism, one monument can do it but there is apathy.” The concerns shown by the Bench relate to lesser facilities cumulatively available in the country to attract tourists from foreign countries to see the famous monument of Taj Mahal. Not only were more facilities required for the tourists but even protecting and preserving the object of attraction, the Taj was of immense importance. Needless to add, not only is Agra over populated, facing air pollution and lacking adequate and comfortable facilities for the visiting tourists but the city is unclean, dusty and lacking civic facilities en-route the spot of attraction. The Government needs to address the concerns shown by the court in not making Taj Mahal visited by more and more foreign tourists for which Agra city needs to be made more conscious about and responsive to cleanliness drive on perpetual basis to ensure clean roads, routes and surroundings as we see in respect of Eiffel Tower of Paris in France. We may not touch those heights but must make tireless efforts in that direction.