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Toxic Tourism
by J. Ajithkumar Bookmark and Share
 
 

Promotion of danger is much more dangerous than dangerous promotion. It is dangerous promotion when tourists are allowed unrestricted access in any country but it is promotion of danger when the rulers of any country say that tourism is the best industry for the country and start believing in it. This is what is happening in India today, especially in a 'vulnerable' state like Kerala. What is marketed as God's-Own-Country in the world tourist circles is becoming a Free-for-All arena for the tourists. The bewitching beauty of land coupled with unlimited freedom is so luring that many tourists fall in love with the place at the first visit and become interested in building long term 'relations' with the area. Large parts of Kerala along the sea coast and highlands are already in the hands of these 'once' tourists who have decided to settle down with various agenda. These registered holdings by foreigners are only a small fraction of the vast tracts of 'benami' lands held by local henchmen for their foreign masters. In recent times, we have also begun to hear about 'flesh-err' in house boats and massage parlors. The noose of foreign occupation, both physical and mental, is slowly but steadily tightening around the neck of Kerala.

When Vasco-De-Gama landed at Kapadi beach in 1498 AD, he was not very welcome. But when the Chief Executive of a rejuvenated East India Company decides to land in one of the many airports of Kerala at a not-so-distant future, there would be an unprecedented welcome from the rulers of an erstwhile God's-Own-Country. This is bound to happen if there is no realization about the dangerous path we are treading now. Several self designated intellectuals and leaders are declaring that IT and Tourism hold the future of Kerala. While IT may be a late but true realization about the inherent intellectual caliber of Keralites, any over emphasis on tourism is bound to play into the hands of dangerous foreign elements. Not only the land will get looted beyond imagination but also our heritage and culture will be mutated beyond recognition. We have so many vulnerable elements and tendencies in our midst that a return to safe limits will be an impossible task once the threshold is crossed.

Discourage Foreign Tourism 

Almost all political novices who come into offices of power fall easy prey to the smartness of bureaucrats under them. In tourism sector, it takes almost no time for 'motivated' bureaucrats to flatten the political leadership with a talk about the remarkable transformation of Singapore in the last 25 years from an undeveloped dirty piece of land to a shining metropolis only because of tourism. In reality it is very much true too. But what applies for a minor piece of land with no centuries-old civilization and a handful of similar citizens is definitely not applicable for a major country with thousands of years' heritage and a set of very dissimilar people. The first and foremost aspect about India that is well known to everyone is its diversity and inherent inability for any sort of uniformity. Culturally and politically, we are used to so much of freedom that any talk about falling in line is anathema even if it is for the sake of national unity. And it is this vulnerable aspect that all our foreign invaders and occupiers have used to their advantage. 

For anyone dealing with tourism in our country, it is important that these weaknesses and vulnerability are borne in mind at all times. We should remember that India as a nation harbors a very high concentration of 'Jai Chands and Mir Jafers' and sabotaging this diverse country from within has always been easy for her foreign enemies. Widespread poverty has only loosened the diversity further, thus leading to acute vulnerability in the face of any determined foreign campaign with adequate resources. Given this background, the security situation can only get worse if we are inviting tourists for unlimited access and pleasure. Quite unfortunately, most of our tourist promotion campaigns are in these lines. It is better for our own sake to remember that any foolish publicity to the whole world about unparalleled beauty existing within our own household will only lead to attempts of rape. Instead, we should be enjoying the heights of mountains and depths of rivers that God has so mercifully bestowed on his own land for his own children.

Encourage Internal Tourism

Tourism can be a powerful tool for a country like ours for promoting national integration. Imagine how people from Kashmir would feel if they are provided decent boarding and lodging facilities at affordable price at Kanyakumari. Same would be the case of Non-Resident Indians and People of Indian Origin, who are much eager to enjoy the beauty of their dream land. Instead of the unabashed pampering of foreign tourists, we should be looking at promotion of National Tourism, NRI Tourism and PIO Tourism as better options. If adequate facilities are provided, our NRIs and PIOs will bring in as much foreign exchange as we get from the foreigners who are on visit only in search of pleasure. The emotional aspect that would bind (and control) an NRI or PIO on a visit to India would be missing in the case a foreigner who will go to any length seeking pleasure. The do's and don'ts that are an integral part of Indian culture would be completely missing in a foreigner, for whom 'flesh-erring' is another value added product of the tourism industry.

Providing considerable incentives to tourism on the basis of it being an industry is a major mistake in every sense. In addition to money that it generates, every industry must produce something and all that tourism produces is waste and immeasurable damages to the environment, both physical and cultural. One look at the people who are involved in the tourism industry, especially those who have invested heavily, is enough to ascertain the true colors of this unwanted industry. Unrestrained freedom for foreign tourists is a dangerous proposition and nowhere in the world do they get as much freedom as in India. There are foreign tourists after our unparalleled bio-diversity, sculptures and artefacts, rarest of rare scriptures and one of most beautiful set of people in the face of this planet. The rules of modern tourism must be very clear ' any foreign tourist must (be allowed to) see only what the hosts want to show and nothing more. And in vast and vulnerable countries like India, internal tourists who love the land must take precedence over foreigners who are only after pleasure.     

2-Jul-2006
More by :  J. Ajithkumar
 
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