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Attack on African students, rape of foreigners, are such incidents denting India's image abroad- Comment

"Once you have felt the Indian dust you will never be free of it." Rumer Godden

Foreigners had been visiting India for centuries. If seen chronologically, great travelers from Megasthenes to Gemelli Careri have visited India for various reason including education, trade & commerce, tourism, acquiring land etc. Indian universities such as Takshshila and Nalanda were great education hubs for foreign students including Hiuen Tsang and I-tsing, who have not only visited but have also taken a broad picture of India to the outer world. They have mentioned India their accounts and have described the multi - dimensional and positive nature of the country.

Therefore, it can be said that foreign travelers - students or tourists have been an integral part of our history since ages. Also if seen from economic point of view , Foreigners - students, tourists, investors, and businesspersons contribute a huge share to our economy. According to sources, about 11.23 million foreigners visited India last year. The World Travel & Tourism Council calculated that tourism generated US$120 billion or 6.3% of the nation's GDP in 2015 and supported 37.315 million jobs, 8.7% of its total employment. The sector is predicted to grow at an average annual rate of 7.5% to US$270 billion by 2025 (7.2% of GDP).In October 2015; India's medical tourism sector was estimated to be worth US$3 billion. It is projected to grow to $7-8 billion by 2020.

In turn, India has always welcomed them with gestures and friendly policies such as easy visa policies, cheaper medical tourism, no discrimination on the basis of race, giving students' equal opportunities in educational institutes. In short we in India follow the principle of: "Atithi Devo Bhava". All these have contributed towards making India incredible countries for foreigners who visit India take back some great and beautiful memories and experiences of our culture.

But everything has two sides of it - In the recent past, many cases of racial discrimination - Attack on African students in the capital city, killing of a Congolese in New Delhi, and several other incidents of assaulting African students in the following weeks and the rate of crime against women have also increased - be it attack on a young Tanzanian woman or rape of foreigners at various tourist spots. This has raised a question on our principles and promises of safety towards them. Adding to it - A 2013 study by Swedish economists found India to be one of the most racist countries in the world. In the international arena this has also blurred the picture of India as a host. This in turn has dented our image among the countries of the world. Therefore, as sensible adults and responsible citizens of India, it is our responsibility to change this perception of the world towards India and following measures can be taken by us for the same:

  1. Coming up with laws which will provide strict rules for the safety and security of foreigners - specially:
    • The education and tourism dept - Collages should have special harassment cells(with more powers) for foreign students ,
    • Tourist spots should be administered properly by executives periodically.
  2. Cooperation of police as well as local administration (including citizens) is required - to avoid disturbances created by unwanted social elements. Government should hire guides/ representatives of higher morals.
  3. Facilities such as:
    • GPS enabled taxis/ mode of transportation to be introduced (which can be tracked)
    • Governments of respective states should introduce buses exclusively for foreigners ( to maintain their safety)
    • Govt. should keep track of all the autowalas or ricksawalas near an educational institute or tourist spot (this will help in reducing crimes against foreigners)
  4. Spreading awareness among masses - People should treat them equal to Indians and not as a chance to earn money.

Above are few measures which can help us to prevent the issue of racial discrimination and ensure safety towards foreigners in India. Last but not the least, we as the responsible citizen of India should join hands with the government and social bodies to bring an end to the dark phase of racial discrimination India. This needs to be dealt with an iron hand.

- Aparajita Guria