Monday Musings: What children want is a cleaner, safer India for better tourism

About two weeks ago, we held the third Hindustan Times Scholarship Programme awards ceremony in which 50 outstanding secondary school students from the city were felicitated with a cash prize, trophy and certificate.

These were the winners from the total of 33,000 students from Classes 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 from 103 schools. The students had written an essay on India’s enormous potential in tourism and what should be done to attract more tourists to our country.

I personally read 75 of the shortlisted essays and interviewed their authors. What struck me most was the common thought that flowed through literally each and every essay.

Why were many of these children talking of extreme violence against women such as rape and asking for more safety for women in the country? After all, there had been no news of any attacks on tourists anywhere in the country for a long time now. It then struck me that the dominating news around this time was all about the death sentence for the Nirbhaya killers and this had evidently made a deep impression on the children, especially from the higher classes.

The other thing that each of the children, without exception, said was that we need to bring in more cleanliness on our streets and public toilets, and make our tourist sites friendlier for them. We need Welcome Centres at the airports, at tourism destinations and along the route, similar to what one sees abroad.

Blessed as we are with ample tourism potential and a rich history and heritage, we also need to show a lot of care and sensitivity for our monuments and not deface them with our scribbling, they said.

Most of these children had been abroad for holidays and they could easily compare and comment on the higher standards of hygiene and cleanliness abroad as compared to India.

The children were unanimous in what they said: that India had incomparable tourism offerings, but to realise this potential, what we need, is a cleaner and safer country, with better managed tourism sites.

What the children said was straightforward and to the point. They hit the nail right on the head. One cannot, but agree with their thoughts and what we need is concerted action to transform these thoughts into action.

It is heartening to note that our future generation knows what ne to be done to maximize our tourism potential.