Source: The Economic Times, Dec 27, 2016
NEW DELHI: The home ministry‘s new year gift to its foreign tourists from 161 countries will be a pre-loaded sim card at 12 major airports of the country after home minister Rajnath Singh formally launches the scheme this weekend.
The ready-to-call sim cards will be available to foreign tourists arriving at airports in Panjim, Ahmedabad, Amritsar, Jaipur, Bengaluru, Chennai, Mumbai, Lucknow, Delhi and Varanasi to start with. The move is aimed at projecting India as a global tourist destination among foreign travellers as well as addressing the security concerns by equipping the tourists with mobile phones to make calls in case of any distress, an official at the home ministry said.
According to MHA officials, Home Minister Rajnath Singh will launch the initiative planned in association with BSNL this weekend by distributing free pre-loaded Sim cards to tourists arriving in India on e-Visa. “The sim cards will be given to the tourists at the immigration itself. We are starting this in a phased manner.
It will pilot in Delhi and a few select cities next week,” said an official said. The proposal for this move was initiated by the Ministry of Tourism earlier this year.
Sources at MHA said it was only after a detailed interministerial committee comprising officials from Tourism, Home, Telecom and Finance Ministries, the idea was given go-ahead.
“There were some security concerns but after consultations we have taken the required the steps and decided to implement the programme. Mandatory checks have already been done with the documentation required for e-visas,” an MHA official said.
“Foreign tourists face problems while procuring a Sim card, making them dependent on telephone booths. The cards can be recharged as and when required and will be functional from the moment they step out of the airport,” the official added. The Sim card will come with a ‘welcome kit’ which would also consist of maps, tourism booklets with information about emergency numbers.