NEW DELHI – A tourist is often greeted to the Capital by pesky touts or auto and taxi drivers trying to drive a hard bargain. This despite the fact that tourist police vans are present at railway stations and airport. And if the situation continues to be as grim, especially with the Commonwealth Games 2010 approaching, Delhi may never earn the precious tag of a tourist-friendly city.
The tourist police wing, which falls under Police Control Room, was set up by Delhi Police in 2004 with the aim of providing assistance to tourists visiting the city. Ten PCR vans, earmarked for the pilot scheme, were stationed at places frequented by tourists like New Delhi Railway station, Rajghat, Red Fort, Hazrat Nizamuddin, Paharganj, Qutab Minar, India Gate, Janpath, Palika Bazaar and IGI airport. The officers were trained in public handling and about the city by Delhi Tourism and were equipped with city maps and tourism literature. The staff was handed fluorescent jackets too, which made them easy to spot in crowded places.
Four years down the line, Times City visited India Gate, Janpath, Connaught Place and Rajghat and found that that the scheme seems to have fizzled out – the vans caught just 298 touts from all over the city in all of last year. The problems with the system are many – the officers posted in the vans are not well versed with English, making them incapable of conversing with foreigners or even domestic tourists hailing from non-Hindi speaking belts. Some even complain that they are rude and not easy to approach. “Instead of being positioned at places like platforms at railway stations and entries to monuments, they keep sitting in a van parked in a corner. I was hounded by a tourist guide offering me a sightseeing tour and until I actually walked up to the van, no action was taken,” said Ritu Shukla from Bhopal.
The tourism literature and jackets have disappeared. Officials posted in the squads – one driver, a gunman, a woman cop and a traffic police officer – say that their old jackets, now worn out, have not been replaced. Even the literature which was being given to tourists is not in supply. The newer set of officials, who are now part of the squads, have not been imparted any special training either. “I can’t speak in English, but someone manages to understand and explain my part to foreigners through sign language. I have not undergone any training since I got posted here, that was only for the initial set of officials who have all got transferred to other units now,” said a tourist police official. Another major problem is that these tourist police vans have to attend to regular PCR calls and put on VIP routes, unlike earlier when they were reserved only for tourist duties. “We are regularly sent to attend to normal PCR calls. We are actually just like normal PCR now,” said another cop.
Senior officers say that Delhi Police is planning expansion of the fleet. “We have six PCR vans working as tourist police but the number will be increased before the Games. The sanctions for new vehicles have come, but how many will be inducted for this wing is yet to be decided. We are also planning refresher courses,” said ACP Rajan Bhagat, public relations officer, Delhi Police.