Atithi Devo Bhava… A country recognized to treat our guest as God himself…who are these guests? Aren’t they foreigners who visit our country? Whose numbers dwindle every year? It certainly doesn’t fit for Indians themselves, for whom travel is still seen as a prerogative of the rich. A discretionary spend. Not a necessity.
Marco polo, Hueng Tsang and so many famous foreigners have travelled to India. How many Indians travelled abroad? How many Indians discovered new lands? Are Indians complacent? Or do we live in a society that is travel deficient? A society that doesn’t encourage travel? In older times, travel was restricted only to visiting your relatives, attending weddings in neighboring villages. In fact government gave a travel allowance, but that too was meant for hometown travel only. Moreover the LTA rules were structured not to urge travel, but to embolden fraudulent bills just to be able to claim the tax exemption!
So how do we change this behavior? It’s surely not a question of money. For a third class ticket from Delhi to Kanyakumari costs less than Rs. 2500 – low enough for at least the majority of the demographic to travel. Another advent that should be able to increase travel is the onset of aggregators – who promise clean rooms across destinations in India. So why aren’t more Indian’s travelling?
The need of the hour is to be able to change our perspective – Encourage travel and understand why it is important. For there are many reasons that are commonly cited as it’s advantage – new experiences expand intellectual horizons, make us accepting of new cultures and change the way we think.
Our education system needs to be able to incorporate travel as part of the curriculum. While some of the evolved private schools are already doing this, why shouldn’t government schools make it mandatory as they made the mid day meal and other such initiatives? The tourism ministry still seems to be focusing on the foreign visitor, initiatives such as Visa on Arrival proves that. Why don’t they work on making LTC / LTA policies more liberal? If this were to encompass travel within India and not just the hometown, people would actually start using the allowance rather than producing fake bills to claim tax exemptions. Moreover, if travel expenses were to be allowed as expenses under the tax regime, maybe it’d encourage Indians further. Coupled with a strong promotional campaign propagating domestic travel. After all, in the west people are celebrated for taking their annual 15-day vacations. Why can’t we do the same?
India is progressing at every level and we are more visible than ever before. We are India Shining, we are Incredible India. We need to call for a change in our society – don’t #Make-in-India, #Travel-in-India!