Odisha govt lifts ban on visit of foreign tourists to tribal areas

Odisha govt lifts ban on visit of foreign tourists to tribal areas

BHUBANESWAR: The Odisha government has relaxed the restrictions on visit of foreign tourists to tribal areas in the state allowing them to trek again and learn the lifestyle of primitive tribes living in the hilly terrain and lush green forest areas.

Odisha is home to 62 tribal communities, including 13 categorised as Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTG).  The state government has taken the decision following a meeting with concerned departments headed by Home secretary Asit Kumar Tripathy. However, the committee has put some security restrictions that need to be followed by the foreign tourists and researchers during their visit to tribal areas.

According to the revised guidelines for regulation of visit of foreign tourists and researchers, they have been asked to pay respect to the culture and tradition of the tribals. It has also asked to take photographs with the consent of them, said notification.

“Before visiting any tribal area, the tourists have to submit their proposed itinerary to the SPs of concerned districts. The tourist officer of the concerned districts would coordinate their aspect if they intimated in advance.

It is mandatory that the travellers have to use the tourist guides approved by the state government.

The SC and ST department would identify local youths as tourist guides, and the Tourism Department will train them.

Camping and tented accommodation shall be provided at designated areas, it added.

This would help the educated tribals to earn some bucks while the indigenous products of the tribals would be sold at a better price, said a senior officer of SC and ST Development Department.

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

The state government had in 2012 imposed a ban on photography and videography of persons belonging to particularly vulnerable tribal group (PVTG) and regulated the visit of foreign tourists to areas inhabited by Bonda, Dongoria Kandhas and other such tribes.

It had taken the decision 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 showcased semi-nude photographs of tribals to attract foreign tourists to the state, triggering massive outrage.