Protected areas Current Affairs
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is planning to relax the protected area permit (PAP) regime to enable foreign tourists to access border areas. The move is being initiated to promote tourism, create job opportunities for the locals and generate revenue for the states.
The proposal of relaxation of permit regime is being taken into consideration following several requests by states falling under protected areas regime and Ministry of Tourism. MHA will coordinate with other agencies and state governments to identify possible locations for which protected area permit (PAP) regime provisions may be relaxed. However, citizens from Pakistan and China are unlikely to be given these relaxations.
Protected areas and Protected area permit
Under Foreigners (Protected Areas) Order, 1958, all areas falling between Inner line and International Border of some states have been declared as protected areas. The protected areas currently include whole of Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Sikkim, besides parts of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan and Jammu and Kashmir. Some parts of Sikkim fall under protected area regime while others under restricted area regime. As per MHA’s December 2010 circular, Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland were excluded from protected area regime initially for a period of one year from January 2011, subject to some conditions.
Guidelines: Under it, foreign national is not normally allowed to visit protected or restricted area unless Government is satisfied that there are extra-ordinary reasons to justify his or her visit. Every foreigner, except citizen of Bhutan, who desires to enter and stay in protected or restricted area, is required to obtain a special permit from a competent authority having the power to issue such permits to a foreigner, seeking it. Citizens of Afghanistan, China and Pakistan and foreign nationals of Pakistani origin are not allowed to enter such areas.
Authority issuing such Permits: Necessary powers have been delegated to various authorities to issue such special permits without prior approval of MHA to facilitate foreign tourists subject to certain exceptions. In cases of citizens of Afghanistan, China and Pakistan and foreign nationals of Pakistani origin, no permit can be issued without prior approval of MHA. In cases of foreign diplomats, including members of United Nations and international organisations holding diplomatic or official passports, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) issues special permits to visit such protected or restricted areas.