As the world marks World Tourism Day, the administration of India’s Andamans is preparing to promote the islands from a seasonal to an all-year tourist destination, giving the Jarawa tribe no respite from tourists taking ‘human safaris’ through their forest home.
Currently the season runs from September to May, when thousands of tourists take the ‘human safaris’ every week as they drive through the tribe’s forest to ogle at the recently contacted Jarawa. But now the tribe will have to face this high level of intrusion all year round.
A local taxi driver said, ‘Some people go there to give them biscuits and take pictures … Just looking at them is a game, you know? This is like an entertainment.’
Mr C. G. Vijay from the Directorate of Information, Publicity and Tourism recently announced plans for the promotion of activities such as ‘forest safaris and hiking for promoting the Islands as all-season destinations’ at tourism fairs in India and abroad.
The announcement has caused alarm amongst those concerned for the hunter-gatherer Jarawa tribe.
Survival Director Stephen Corry said today, ‘Before the Andaman authorities starts to market the islands as a year-round tourist destination it should first get its house in order. ‘Human safaris’ into the Jarawa’s forest are an affront to human dignity – the idea that the Jarawa will not even have respite from this intrusion into their lives during the rainy season, doesn’t bear thinking about’.
Thousands have pledged not to visit the Andaman Islands since Survival launched a boycott earlier this year, calling for visitors to stay away until tourists are banned from the road through the Jarawa’s forest and an alternative sea route is put in place.
The Andaman administration has committed to opening up an alternative sea route by March 2015, but even this lamentably late date is looking questionable as the plans are still awaiting environmental clearance from Delhi.
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