In order to encourage foreigners to visit India, the Narendra Modi government in New Delhi has decided to provide foreign nationals with local SIM cards upon their arrival in the South Asian country.
The Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO) said in a statement on Friday that foreign nationals, with e-visas, would enjoy the facility after their landing at theIndira Gandhi International Airport in the Indian capital. According to the statement, the SIM card from state-run telecom operator Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) will allow tourists to make local phone calls without facing any troubles. The Modi government also asked 15 other airports in the country to initiate the programme as soon as possible in order to boost the tourism industry.
As per the guidelines prepared by the Indian government, foreign nationals will have to submit a copy of their e-visas and the first page of the passport (for proof) to the concerned authorities for getting the SIM card. The card will be loaded with a credit of INR 50 or 85 cents for making local calls and also with 50MB data for internet usage. The cell number will remain active for one month.
With the Indian government offering e-visa facility to more than 150 countries, the IATO said that people from those countries would be allowed to apply for the visa only four days ahead of their arrival in the country.
Currently, it is difficult for foreigners to get a SIM card in India as the procedure to receive the card is very lengthy. As per the existing rules, foreign nationals have to produce various documents, including a proof of identity, a photocopy of passport with valid visa stamp, proof of address, along with the address of local reference, and photographs, while applying for a new mobile connection.
Speaking at a press conference in New Delhi, Tourism Minister Dr Mahesh Sharma said: “The initiative will help tourists immediately communicate with their relatives back home, hotels, tour operators and so on. I got this idea when I received a similar card on visiting Sri Lanka.” The Indian minister, who had informed the media about the government’s plan to introduce this programme in 2016, further said that the move would also help India attract more tourists especially from European countries. In 2014, India emerged as the 38th most visited place in the world and the tourism industry contributed nearly 6.77% to the country’s total GDP.