Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Look Indian! Or Pay More.

I visited Aga Khan Palace this morning. The palace was the place where Mahatma Gandhi and some of his closer associates were interned after the onset of the Quit India Movement in 1942. He spent about two years incarcerated here, during which time his personal secretary and his wife, both of whom were among those also interned with him, passed away. Today the palace stands as a memorial to the great Mahatma and also houses a small museum about his life. The Mahatma’s samadhi (the place where some of his ashes are buried) is situated behind the palace and can also be visited.


As with many other tourist sites in India, the admission charge at the gate is dependent on your nationality. If you are an Indian citizen then the fee is Rs. 5 (about a dime), but non-Indian citizens have to pay $2 (or Rs. 100) per head. This system of dual rates is quite common throughout the country. Even the most famous of all Indian tourist attractions, the Taj Mahal at Agra, is no exception.

Is it fair? I suppose one could argue both sides here.

The skewed exchange rates ensure that little is fair to Indian tourists to begin with. In the States, an Indian tourist would pay the same admission charge as an American citizen, but that same amount is a lot more for average Indian, relatively speaking. Shouldn’t the Indian be allowed to get away a little easier at home at least? After all, Rs. 5 to him is worth about the same as the two bucks are worth to the foreigner.

However, I feel keeping dual admission charges involves discrimination on the basis of nationality and must be avoided, at least for this reason, if no other.

The decision of what to charge you is made on the basis of appearance, skin color and language, since you can’t really stop all tourists and ask them to provide proof of nationality. Thus ‘Indian citizen’ really means someone who looks Indian-ish and can speak a local tongue. I was, of course, a bit suspect, but managed to get through in the end with some Hindi.

Interestingly, when I was Goa about two years ago, I remember that nightclub owners were charging Indians an admission fee but letting foreign tourists enter for free! This was in complete contrast to what happens at all government run tourist sites! The logic in this case, I suppose, is that most Western tourists are likely to spend a fair deal on alcohol once they get inside, but Indian tourists will probably drink less, if at all. Makes sense.

20 comments:

_ð!®†ß¤¥ said...

Dude,mind tellin me what you said to those guys manning the gate or entrance or whateva.. I'm wondering how good your hindi is..

KT said...

Ahh, the 'white skin tax'. What did they do to you? Out of the planet admission fees?

(to all readers of this blog)
Arnold gets very happy when people confuse him for a foreigner! really happy.

Yashita said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Arnold said...

abhinav - i dun rmbr exactly what i said, but it was something about being from poona itself.

kt - please spare me the bullshit... all i get is amused; don't add the "really happy" part...

yashita - gsae

Salil said...

pune, please, please. its PUNE.
do you want the rhetoric about your hating to be Indian started again?

Arnold said...

salil - I cannot comprehend how calling the city by the name 'Poona' rather than 'Pune' proves that I hate to be Indian!! I know a lot of other people who use the term 'Poona', do all of them hate to be Indian too?

In the end ur rhetoric is just that - mere rhetoric... not much truth to it at all...

Anonymous said...

Hey i'm with salil on this.. I'll call it pune.. My reason.. Just coz it has one letter less...:)

Yashita said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rishi Agarwal said...

Agra being my native place, i have been to Taj Mahal atleast 15 times . The admission fee for Indian is 15 bucks and for a foreign tourist is around 500 bucks !!

anyways, around 5 years back, I was stopped at the entrance gate of Taj mahal. Thats coz , i am a bit fair,and looked non-Indian-ish . The guard starting arguing with my dad that i am a foreigner. Finally, i intervened and in a typical localite said " Abbe, main Indian hoon , likh kar doon kya ?? " then he allowed me inside !

anyways, i think the Indian goverment is thinking of reducing the amount and charging a common fee for everyone.But that may mean some extra money for Indians too.

Athithi Devo bhavo !

_ð!®†ß¤¥ said...

Dude... Did you write athithi devho bhavo on this blog?Make yourself s

_ð!®†ß¤¥ said...

Scarce. Otherwise arnold'll skin u alive for 'tainting' his blog with a language so indian

Arnold said...

abhinav - i didnt write it, dude!

rishi - wht does 'athithi devo bhavo' mean anyways?

Yashita said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rishi Agarwal said...

yashita is right... ' athithi devo bhavo ' means treat your guest like god.
It is a Indian tradition and the slogan adopted by department of tourism of India this year.

and sorry for "tainting " ur blog . will take care next time !!

_ð!®†ß¤¥ said...

Arnie,i know u didnt.
Yashita,what have i done to incur ur "dislike",mam?I mean,you are messin up even my name..I'm abhinav,not ahinav. And btw,this is arnold,lets not forget that.He would skin God too if God were to commit this sacrilege and come within his arm's reach. I mean its not just hindustani,its sanskrit.

_ð!®†ß¤¥ said...

I think its sanskrit.. Not too sure myself. But its definitely not hindi or marathi.May be not urdu either.

Soham Pablo said...

This system is one of the worst things, in my opinion, about the Indian tourism scene. I can't understand why foreigners are charged more, especially in most cases when you cannot even figure ou who is 'foreign'. Mark Tully would be charged more than Apache Indian !

In no other country would you find this ..

Arnold said...

soham pablo - I haven't visited too many other countries, but that was my initial opinion too... I don't see how this could happen in any other country... A lot of people hv told me that this system is going to be abolished shortly...

nina said...

oh i think its quite fair...we get fleeced when we go abroad...its only right that we fleece them when they come here..but its still less for them...as in when u convert...but it can be really pissing off when they think indians are phirangs...when i went to agra they thought i was a phirang n wanted me to pay like 500 bucks to enter...i got so mad...started cursing in tamil n they let me in...lol...all hail tamil!!!!
but the highligh of my day the other day was when some phirangs came to see our coll n someone told me the other day an auto guy charged them $50 per person to take them by auto to a palce which would have normally cost like 40 bucks max....normally i hate auto guys...detest them...but that day i so totally enjoyed it!!!

Arnold said...

nina - so what nationality do you get mistaken for?? i've copped a couple of israeli tags myself.. and one italian one!

i have anuther point to make on this issue.. which i'll do in an upcoming post.. stay tuned...