BHUBANESWAR: The Odisha Government has identified 14 blocks in six tribal districts where villages inhabited by particularly vulnerable tribal groups (PVTGs) will be restricted for foreign tourists.
“However, compared to 2012, the number of villages has been slashed by more than 50 per cent in view of the dropping number of foreign tourist footfalls to the State. The rest will be free for access and movement,” an officer in Tourism Department said.
A high level committee, chaired by Home Secretary, approved the list of villages basing on a recommendation by the Director, Intelligence. The districts include Kalahandi, Rayagada, Nuapada, Malkangiri, Kandhamal and Koraput.
“Visits by foreign tourists and researchers will be restricted to these villages while in the rest of areas, the ban has been lifted. This has been done so that the PVTGs are neither disturbed nor portrayed in a negative manner,” sources said.
The State Government first imposed restrictions in 2012 by banning photography as well as videography of PVTG members and regulated visit of foreign tourists to areas inhabited by such tribes over allegations of “human safari”.
Later, the abduction of two Italian tourists from Kandhamal by the Left Wing Extremists prompted the Government to tighten the norms guiding movement of foreign tourists. Several tour operators were also found to be using tribal areas for their tour packages.
As the LWE situation remained grim and restrictions prevailed, footfall of foreign tourists to the tribal areas witnessed a dip. Last year, the Government decided to take a fresh call on the matter as the Maoist menace showed signs of improvement in the affected districts.
“While the Government has cut down on the number of villages restricted for foreign tourists and researchers, it has at the same time facilitated visits to other places with guides appointed by SC and ST Department,” Tourism Minister Ashok Panda said.
The SC and ST Department has identified 39 tourist guides who will be trained by the Tourism Department to ensure that the tourists honour the sentiments of the indigenous inhabitants.
However, the visitors will have to abide by the travel advisory issued by the Tourism Department which necessitates that local authorities are communicated about the tours.
As per the list, 13 GPs in Kalahandi, 18 in Rayagada, four each in Nuapada and Malkangiri, 15 in Kandhamal and 14 in Koraput have been put on the restricted list. The entire Sunabeda Wildlife Sanctuary in Nuapada district and villages inside it are in the no-access list.