A scheme to provide free SIM cards to foreign tourists arriving in India to help meet their communication needs has been “discontinued” as it was felt “unnecessary”, tourism secretary Rashmi Verma said on Monday. Under the scheme, foreign tourists availing e-visas were provided pre-activated free SIM cards on arrival in India. The scheme was launched in February last year by the then tourism minister Mahesh Sharma. “It has been discontinued as it was felt not necessary to do so,” Verma said. She said foreign tourists use social media apps and Wi-Fi facility is also available in most places including at the airports.
The BSNL SIM cards came with talk time of Rs 50 and 50 MB data. The facility was started to help foreign tourists remain connected for the time period their own SIM cards were activated after landing in India. The SIM card with 30 days’ validity also helped the travellers to contact the 24-hour tourist helpline number available in 12 languages including Russian, German and Japanese. The tourism secretary said that the helpline for foreign tourists is going to be expanded with addition of some other languages.
Last year, India for the first time crossed 10 million mark in foreign tourist arrivals. Combined with the NRI visitors, the international tourist arrivals stood at around 16.5 million. The tourism ministry has aimed to double the foreign tourist arrivals and revenue for it in the next three years. The tourism secretary also said that under the Swadesh Darshan scheme of the ministry, 15 tourist circuits were identified for which 68 projects were approved. Thirty of these projects are likely to be completed by end of this year, she added.