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Policing the tourist

Policing the tourist
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Following the advisory issued by the Union Tourism Ministry in August, all state governments and union territory administrations are required to deploy Tourist Police to spots where foreign visitors congregate. Delhi, despite being host to huge tourist traffic, is yet to set up an effective and functional tourist police service.

Given the adverse publicity received abroad, following a spate of incidents involving crime against women, Tourism Ministry has made it mandatory to create a special force for protection and guidance to visiting tourists.

Tourism industry is a fast growing industry. Hence, there is a need for separate personnel to look after the tourists, manage tourist enquires and complaints and ensure that the language barrier doesn’t hamper their enjoyment or security.

Delhi remains an important tourist destination and also a transit point from where international and national tourist start their journey to various destinations. Tourist at times face several problems related to transport, accommodation, getting tourism related information and many times they fall victim to cheats and touts, whereby they end up losing their belongings and valuables.

In 2005, when KK Paul was Delhi police chief, a concept of tourist police was introduced to the capital. The objective was to help foreign tourists solve problems related to transport, accommodation and other tourism related information. During the Commonwealth Games in Delhi (2010), a large number of personnel were deployed in tourist police department. Personnel, fluent in foreign languages, especially English, were deployed.

The deployment of personnel from this department has increasingly remained invisible. As per current data there are 12 PCR vans deployed at 12 particular spots that includes IGI Airport, New Delhi Railway station, Qutub Minar, India Gate, Pahar Ganj to name a few. However, to an ordinary citizen they are not easily visible, forget being accessible.

TN Mohan, special commissioner of police (Operations), said, ‘Even though Tourist Police is a part of Delhi Police, they are different from the local police deployed at various places. Tourist police is only responsible in helping tourists, be it foreign tourist or Indian. We have hired  cops who are fluent in English so that they can communicate easily with the foreign tourists.’ On a daily basis, according to official data, around 600 queries are resolved/answered by these tourist cops, out of which 45 per cent of the queries come from foreigners. During winter season, the query rates increase two-fold, because of higher tourist flow to the capital.

However, despite such claims, it’s not easy to distinguish an ordinary cop from a tourist policeman, as they wear the same uniform. The only method of identification is the PCR van allotted to them. A sticker is put on these 12 PCR vans that reads ‘Tourist Police’ in large letters. These vans are often parked outside ten to 12 important locations mentioned earlier to register their presence.

‘There are around nine to ten cops deployed on each PCR van that includes an Assistant Sub inspector, a head constable and a constable. No women cops are posted in the tourist police department. However, female cops posted at the respective police stations, falling under that particular jurisdiction, are deployed at sensitive areas,’ Mohan added.

To validate the ground realities of tourist policing, this reporter visited various places like India Gate, Palika Bazar, Janpath and Raj Ghat. It was surprising to note that the tourist police PCR vans remained absent from Janpath and Raj Ghat whereas normal PCR vans were present near these locations.

When the reporter asked the cops sitting inside these vans about the presence of tourist police, the cops gave a confused expression. It seemed as if they were hearing the term ‘tourist police’  for the first time. However, a tourist police van was found at India Gate and a constable standing outside the van said, ‘We keep an eye on the visitors without making the distinction whether they are tourists or the locals. Many people including foreign tourists approach us to know about the best transport facilities from one tourist spot to the other. They often make query about the accommodation facilities, as they fear being cheated.’

These cops also help the tourist in procuring tickets for museums, resorts, transports and movies. These cops also ensure that no peddlers, jewelers, shopkeepers, touts, cheats and beggars harass them. They also guide tourists on local art and culture, emporiums, book stalls, banks, PCOs and a lot more.
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