New Delhi – Tourists may soon get the nod to visit locations in the North-East, Jammu and Kashmir, Lakshadweep and Andaman and Nicobar islands.
Foreigner (Protected Areas) Act requires foreigners to obtain a permit to visit some areas. Even Indian citizens who are not residents of these areas require permission — called an Inner Line Permit — to enter these places.
“Though most of the protected areas will be kept out of the purview of the ongoing exercise, there are a few in the North-East, J&K, Lakshadweep and Andaman and Nicobar islands whose status are being reviewed in order to lift PAP (for foreigners) and ILP (for Indians) requirements,” a senior home ministry official said, referring to a similar move in past when the Centre lifted restrictions on visiting Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and the Darjeeling area of West Bengal.
At present, some parts of J&K, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshwadeep and the entire states of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram fall under the category of protected areas.
Certain requirements — like tourists’ number and their period of stay — have to be fulfilled in order to get PAP and ILP. Normally, PAP — which is issued by the home ministry as well as by authorities concerned in the states/UTs — has a duration of 10 days with an option of extending it for a week in special cases. ILP is relatively easier to get as it is meant for Indian citizens who live outside the identified areas.
Referring to the proposal, the official said the tourism ministry had found the permit policies in N-E states, J&K and Lakshadweep as obstacles for people visiting areas of scenic beauty and for adventure tourism.
Though the ministry had suggested some other measures as well to boost tourism in the country, this particular issue is being seriously discussed in the home ministry, he added.