Audio kits cause for discomfort at Palace

Foreign tourists complain of 'racism' for making kit mandatory

The Handy Audio Research Kits (HARK), introduced at Amba Vilas Palace, Mysore, was aimed at describing the important features of the historic Palace to visitors in the absence of a guide.

However, making HARK mandatory for foreign tourists has resulted in a lot of discomfort for the Palace authorities and guides, who accompany them.

Since HARK, developed by a company called Narrowcasters India Private Ltd, was introduced at the Palace in November 2008, more than 3.5 lakh foreign tourists have been forced to pay for the audio kit, irrespective of whether they use it or not.

Deputy Director of the Mysore Palace Board T S Subramanya, speaking to Deccan Herald, admitted that foreign tourists have complained of ‘discrimination’ as HARK is mandatory for them.

“Some tourists have even quarrelled with the authorities over the issue. They opine that they would use HARK only if necessary and it is meaningless to make it mandatory,” he said.

“Some tourists have also levelled criticism about the mandatory facility by labelling it as ‘racist’. ‘Is it because our skin is white, we are forced to avail the kits?’ they have asked,” he said.

Foreign tourists are charged Rs 200 for entrance to the Palace — Rs 100 is the entrance fee while Rs 100 goes for HARK.

Prashanth B S, president of Mysore Travel Agents Association, said, most of the foreign tourists are accompanied by guides. “Some foreign tourists just want to see the Palace and leave. They do not require such kits. Making it mandatory for them affects the hospitality,” he said.

Ashok S J, a professional guide and joint secretary of State Guides Association, said, mandatory HARK had provoked a few foreign tourists to describe it as ‘daylight robbery’ of tourists. “They feel bitter about making HARK mandatory. The kit should be made optional so that foreign tourists do not feel that they are being fleeced,” he said.

Subramanya said, following several complaints about HARK by foreign tourists, he has sent a report about it to the State government, a year ago. “The agreement between Narrowcasters and Palace Board is one-sided. We are discussing a legal recourse to change the conditions in the agreement,” he said.

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