Odisha eases curbs on foreign tourists to tribal areas

Bhubaneswar, Feb 4 (IANS) The Odisha government has relaxed its restrictions on visits by foreign tourists to tribal pockets in the state after over three years, officials said on Thursday.

The relaxation in restrictions would enable foreign tourists to trek and learn the lifestyle of primitive tribes living in the hilly terrains.

The state government revised the guidelines for regulation of visits by foreign tourists and researchers following recommendations of a committee headed by home secretary Asit Kumar Tripathy.

However, the committee recommended some security guidelines that need to be adhered to by foreign tourists and researchers during their visits to tribal areas.

Odisha is home to 62 tribal communities, including 13 categorised as Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTG).

According to the revised guidelines, foreign tourists have been asked to pay respect to the culture and tradition of the tribals.

They have also been asked to take photographs only with the consent of the tribals.

The tourists also have to submit their proposed itinerary to the police superintendents of the concerned districts, and the tourist officer of the districts will coordinate if they are intimated in advance, said the notification.

It is also mandatory that foreign travellers use tourist guides approved by the state government.

The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes department would identify local youths as tourist guides and they will be trained by the tourism department.

The state government reportedly took the decision following dwindling tourist footfalls in Odisha.

As foreign visitors are attracted to the state for trekking, adventure sports and tribal tourism, allowing them to reside in tribal areas would help boost the sector.

The state government in 2012 imposed a ban on photography and videography of people from the PVTGs and regulated the visit of foreign tourists to areas inhabited by Bonda, Dongoria Kandhas and other tribes.

It decided on restrictions following the controversy over the “human safari” involving Jarawa women in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and followed by similar incidents in Odisha.

Some websites of tour operators had displayed semi-nude photographs of tribals to attract foreign tourists to the state, triggering massive outrage.

The government had further tightened the restrictions following the abduction of two Italian tourists in Kandhamal district by Maoists three years ago.

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