“We have got in-principle approval from the Home Ministry for allowing satellite phones in the Himalayas, where there is no phone connectivity. A policy is being finalised and it is likely to be announced on World Tourism Day,” a senior Tourism Ministry official said.
With the government nod, satellite phones-equipped tourists will be able to contact their relatives in case of emergency while trekking in the remote areas of Ladakh, hiking in Sikkim, or exploring the wilderness of the Himalayas spanning across in Arunachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Darjeeling.
There is a long-standing demand from the industry for allowing satellite phones in the Himalayas. However, the official said there are certain conditions being laid down by the Ministry of Home Affairs for allowing satellite phones like monitoring of the calls made from these areas and the type of phones to be allowed.
Adventure Tour Operators Association founder member India Ajeet Bajaj said, “It will be a game changer for Indian adventure tourism industry as it will take the adventure related activities in the Himalayas to a new height”. About the proposed call monitoring provision, Bajaj said “we have no problem at all with it.”
According to the policy to be announced shortly, the adventure tour operators will be provided satellite phones by the government authorities for use and they would be responsible for its correct use as per the established norms. According to industry sources, the Himalayas attract about 2 million domestic and foreign adventure tourists in a year who go for skiing, hiking, camping and trekking. The number will go up with the satellite permission as the Himalayan ranges are missing many global tourists due to poor communication facilities. At present, the ministry is pushing adventure tourism in the country and announced several schemes like bearing the cost of 50 per cent fee of climbers trekking the Himalayas as part of the campaign,” 777 Days of the Indian Himalayas”, launched last year.
Source: Economic Times