News East West
NEW DELHI: India on Wednesday rolled out a ambitious plan to grant visa-on-arrival (VoA) and prior electronic travel authorization (ETA) to people from 180 countries.
The plan will come into force by October by which time the government would have put in place infrastructure, including more staff and immigration counters at airports. Initially, these facilities will be available at nine airports – Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Cochin, Goa, Hyderabad, Trivandrum and Bangalore.
Eight countries which have been kept out are Pakistan, Sudan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Sri Lanka and Somalia.
Till now this facility was available to visitors from 11 countries, including Japan, Finland, Vietnam and Singapore.
Indian intelligence agencies have been opposing extension of visa-on-arrival for security reasons, but they have come around to the view that this facility was needed to boost tourism to India.
The decision was taken at a Planning Commission meeting attended by Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Foreign Secretary Sujata Singh and top PMO officials.
The Bureau of Immigration is setting up a website where tourists can apply online and within 2-3 days they will get their electronic travel authorization (ETA). On arrival at airports, you will have to just confirm this with immigration counters.
Both VoA and ETA will be for 30 days.
Though figures for 2013 are not available yet, 6.57 million tourists visited India in 2012.
The US was the top source of tourism to India with 1.03 million tourists, followed by Britain (0.78 million) and Bangladesh (0.48 million), Sri Lanka (0.29 million) and Canada (0.25 million).
Despite the fact that India has so much to offer to tourists, the country gets only just 0.64 percent of the world tourists.