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The Impact Of Tourism In India And The Changes Needed

India is a myriad of multicultural Experiences with great numerous landscapes, heritage and culture. One of the major reasons any government promotes and supports tourism is its enormous positive impact on economic growth and development. The economic development of tourism is mainly because of its contribution to GDP and employment. 

The World Travel and Tourism Council calculated that tourism generated 9.2% of India’s GDP in 2018, and this is expected to reach 9.9% GDP by 2028.

India is one of the most ancient civilisations in the world. People here are very God-fearing and devout towards their religion. And in this pursuit, they religiously follow various age-old traditions and beliefs. 

Hinduism is the oldest and the predominant religion across India, while other religions like Islam, Buddhism and Christianity are less prevalent. Several major religious festivals, events and pilgrimages in India occur for as many as 2–15 days annually. During this period, lakhs of people visit the religious destination and offer their prayers. These places also witness a huge number of international visitors during those days. 

The logistics involved in safely managing such huge crowds and ensuring proper arrangements for all devotees travelling from across the world is a massive challenge for the Central and State Governments. Also, for most of the Indian population travelling for religious purposes, luxury or comfort is not the priority.

They prefer free stays in Dharamshala’s or temples over expensive hotels, so another challenge is providing proper sanitation and hygiene facilities to these travellers. And attracting tourists to remote locations might require better connectivity to these regions to develop into commercial tourist sites. Let’s look into the logistics of some of the most important religious events and pilgrimages in India that witness huge crowds every year.

Tirumala Tirupati
Tirumala Tirupathi.

Tirumala Tirupathi is one such pilgrimage centre where 70,000 people visit on an average daily. The number of pilgrims can go as high as 1,00,000 during major festivals like Brahmotsavam, which is a 9 day-long affair. 

After Tirupati Balaji temple was nominated as one of the Swachh Iconic Places (SIP) in 2016, special efforts are being put into making the place cleaner. Since 1 November, 2018, plastic has been completely banned inside the temple. 

In 2019, TTD (Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams) provided free food, transportation and water services to pilgrims visiting during Brahmotsavam while keeping in check that no plastic items are used for these services inside the temple. TTD diligently checks water pollution by treating 83% of wastewater and using it for non-potable purposes. Tirumala has four sewage treatment plants having a capacity of treating 9.5 million litres per day.

The Kumbh Mela is considered the largest gathering of people in the world. Millions of people gather at four different holy places in the country for this special occasion to take a bath in the sacred rivers. In 2013 around 100 million people attended the occasion. 

The 2019 Kumbh Mela had around 150 million visitors. Unfortunately, due to such a massive gathering, stampede incidents occur because of uncontrolled crowd management. Due to contact with so many people in the same vicinity, there is also the fear of exposure to various health-related issues. 

Another challenge that arises because of the magnitude of the gathering is waste disposal and pollution. It becomes difficult to regulate such a large crowd, and usually, people are seen disposing of the waste on the streets, making the places look like a wasteland.

Water pollution is also a huge concern. In the 2013 Kumbh Mela, nearly 8 million people are estimated to have taken dips in the Holy Ganges river at Haridwar on its first day. The pollution level at the Sangam at Haridwar increased significantly due to this.

To combat this in 2019, extra water was released into the Ganges from the barrages and dams upstream. This ensured a constant water flow and avoided stagnation of water, which may have led to many diseases. Proper sanitation also becomes a big problem in this scenario. The State Government has constantly been working towards improving the situation and facilitating the devotees in the best way possible by streamlining the whole process.

According to reports, 1,20,000 toilets were installed for the 2019 Kumbh Mela. Around 500 sanitation workers were also deployed for proper management. Another important initiative is to raise awareness amongst the visitors to encourage them to keep the area clean. Taps are installed at various locations to provide clean drinking water to the pilgrims. 

Government agencies like the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) are tasked to monitor the water pollution level and take action if it exceeds the required level.

Amarnath Yatra
Amarnath Yatra.

The holy cave of Amarnath is revered by hundreds of thousands of pilgrims worldwide. It is one of the most famous pilgrimage destinations in India. It is considered the holiest shrine in the Hindu culture, and hence the Amarnath Yatra carries a huge significance for devotees.

It is organised every year by the Government of Jammu & Kashmir. The cave remains covered in snow but opens for travel for about 40 days every year. A massive number of devotees from across the globe visit the shrine during this period.

During the Amarnath Yatra, the devotees travelling from across the world are provided with the best possible facilities in a joint effort by the Central Government, State Government Police forces and the Indian Army. Due to these services and facilities provided by the Government, this pilgrimage, which was initially undertaken by only a limited number of people, has now turned into an annual pilgrimage ritual attended by many civilian devotees. 

For India’s religiously inclined population, this initiative taken up by the state and the central Government is commendable. The past data suggests that the number of travellers has been increasing rapidly since the involvement of the Government and the establishment of the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB), with the number of travellers going as high as 6.5 lakhs in the year 2011. 

Managing such a large crowd of untrained travellers trekking on a treacherous path, especially during extreme weather conditions, while ensuring each traveller’s safety is not an easy task. Besides these safety concerns, various environmental challenges come into the picture with this kind of huge gathering. 

The sudden increase in infrastructure and facilities required to ensure the Yatra’s smooth conduct increases the environmental burden and disturbs the balance of nature at this remote location.

Measures to be Taken:

Many religious places in the country are in places where there are very high chances of natural calamities. All possible safety measures to save people during such natural calamities have to be arranged so that the people go on pilgrimages with “tension-free” minds. Proper measures have to be implemented to foresee such disasters so that people can be evacuated well in advance to safer places.

The roads in India are also not in good condition. The journey becomes more tiring because of these roads. So, steps must be taken to improve road transport facilities. Sometimes, people say trains and roads consume lots of time and days get wasted, so it would be better to travel by air, but it is too expensive. The cost is another obstacle people are facing in planning pilgrimage trips.

At some places, Government employees and localities behave harshly with the visitors, thus, spoiling the spiritual atmosphere. All employees and localities have to be educated to treat them in a friendly manner. Many people in such places exploit visitors for money in the name of God. Things like having educated tour guides and using technology to allow tourists to rate them can be helpful.

Maintaining the places neat and clean is of at most importance. Measures have to be taken to keep such places clean. The project of cleaning Ganga launched by our Honourable Prime Minister is an example of such a step. Many more projects like this have to come up.

Government guest houses and lodges have to come up in more numbers at affordable rates to the pilgrims. Enough number of restaurants have to be there. Many people suffer without anything to eat during their journeys. Proper food spots must be built which provide hygienic food at a reasonable rate.

It is essential to create awareness of such places. Things like short videos can be telecasted about the place. Information centres and websites have to be opened to provide visitors all the info regarding the significance of the place, nearby places to visit, hotels and lodges available, temple timings, tickets and costs for various sevas that can be offered at temples, nearby hospitals, nearby police stations, etc. Sitemaps can also be distributed to visitors.

By: Ramakrishna Reddy, Dalipriya K, Roopam, and Kaushik Maji.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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