The Government of India, along with BSNL and ITDC is going to provide those on electronic Tourist Visa with free SIM cards from December 25 at the New Delhi airport.
Coming as a Christmas gift for international visitors to the country, those arriving on electronic Tourist Visa (eTV) are going to receive pre-loaded mobile SIM Cards during their stay. The Ministry of Tourism, along with Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) and India Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) will aid foreign nationals by providing them with these SIM cards.
The proposal for this move was initiated by the Ministry of Tourism earlier this year to ensure that international tourists could plan a hassle-free visit to India. The idea was approved by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), after which an inter-ministerial committee comprising officials from tourism, home, telecom and finance ministries had been formed to finalise the process.“We had a number of meetings with the Home Ministry with regard to providing SIM card to foreign tourists when they land in India. The ministry has finally agreed to our proposal. Now, it will take some time to start the facility,” Union Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma had stated. The plan, as confirmed by a member of the Indian Association of Tour Operators, will come into force on December 25.
BSNL, an Indian state-owned telecommunications company has come together with ITDC to provide the SIM cards. As of next week, the SIM cards can be availed at the ITDC counter in Terminal 3 of the New Delhi Airport. In the initial discussion, the Government had revealed that the SIM cards would come with a preloaded talk time amount. Along with this, a ‘welcome kit’ that would also consist of maps, tourism booklets with information about various tourist destinations and details of whom to contact in case of emergency were to be included.
eTV boosts inbound travel
The eTV, which was launched on November 2014, by the Electronic Travel Authorisation allows a prospective visitor to apply for an Indian visa from their home country online without a visit to the Indian mission. The fees for the visa can also be paid online. On approval, an email authorising the applicant to travel to India is sent and a print out of this authorisation can be used for the immigration formalities for the entry into the country.
Initially available for visitors from 113 countries, the eTV was extended to citizens of 37 more countries early this year. The visa, which has extended its scope from its initial operations, has been gaining popularity over time with a reported 200 pc rise in those opting for it, with 68,400 people availing the facility in July this year compared to 21,476 during the corresponding month in the previous year.
Visitors from the UK remained the highest users of this facility, followed by the US and France. With the announcement of SIM cards being made available free of cost for eTV applicants, the visa facility is also set to gain more takers.