Shock for some, not so bad for some first-time visitors

As many as 140 Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) were visiting India as part of the ‘Know India’ programme organised by the Ministry of External Affairs. While the first visit to some was a shock, others found India wasn’t as bad as it was portrayed.

For Sapir Shay, a fashion designing student from Israel, the stark difference between the rich and the poor was shocking. “It is my first visit to India. While we were staying in a posh hotel, right outside, we could see really poor people. There is a child begging for help. That left me shocked,” she said. Bhavisthra Ramlagan, an environmental scientist from South Africa, however, said India for her was much better than what was portrayed back home.

“I was warned that I must carry face masks. It was not that bad. We toured North India and travelled to parts of Delhi and UP,” she said.

Asked why she had not visited the country before, Ramlagan said she was a sixth generation citizen of South Africa and found no need to come here. “My family does not even speak Hindi anymore,” she added.

She got to know about the programme for the first time through the Ministry of External Affairs’ Know India Programme (KIP), which brings young Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) between 18 and 30 years to their home country if they have never visited India.

Ramlagan said that though her country was not free from poverty, rural areas had better infrastructure. Drawing a comparison, she said, “Here, we came across beggars even in the city’s central business district,” she said.

Both the women said that they were warned about molestation cases in the country. They complained that men staring at them left them uncomfortable and they wanted to hide behind men accompanying them. They recalled "blatant staring and wolf whistles" they were subjected to in Lucknow.  With MEA bearing all the expenses, the 25-day orientation programme involves participants in batches of 40 per programme. They can spend time at locations of their choice where sightseeing, lectures and other programmes are organised.

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