The Ladakh administration has issued a notice removing Inner Line Permit (ILP) as a pre-requisite for domestic tourists to get access to Government notified protected areas of Leh. The areas where ILP was a pre-requisite include Khardunga la Pass, and Pangong Lake. Now, Indians will not have to carry any document or pay any fee (which previously included a donation to the Red Cross) to get ‘permission’ for travelling in their own country. Along with it, restriction on the stay of foreign tourists has also been relaxed from seven days to fifteen days in tour circuits of bordering areas like Nyoma, Nubra and places in Leh and Kargil districts.
Inner Line Permit (ILP) is an official travel document issued by the Government to allow Indian citizens not domiciled in the state to travel in a protected area within the state for a limited period of time. Foreign nationals are issued Protected Area Permit (PAP) by the concerned authorities. ILP is believed to be a bureaucratically easier permit to get. Currently, Inner Line Permits are required to visit Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Nagaland, Manipur, and the union territory of Lakshadweep. Manipur is the latest in line of states to require Inner Line Permit for tourists. Different states have different rules regarding ILP, in Arunachal Pradesh ILP is issued by the political secretary of the Government of Arunachal Pradesh while in Mizoram, Nagaland, Manipur and Lakshadweep, ILP is issued by their respective Governments. To sum it all ‘An Indian citizen needs special permission from respective authorities to enter into the territory of four out of seven sisters of the proud northeastern part of his/her country’. Let that sink in.
Inner Line Permit system traces its history in the clauses of Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation Act, 1873, which was brought in by the Britishers to regulate the entry of their subjects in certain areas. This was done to protect the interests of the crown in some states by preventing British Subjects from trading within these regions. It was an act of total selfishness involving no regard for the local population of the areas. It was a British system that arose out of their greed to establish their own monopoly over trading relations with the people residing in those areas. In today’s world, where we are as much connected with a person sitting in a Caribbean Island as with a person sitting next to our dinner table in a Dhaba on any national highway, it feels like a system made by some troglodyte sitting in a cave. The system is holding back Northeastern states from realizing their full potential in terms of revenue generation from tourism and intermixing with the diversity of other states. Tourists always complain of documentary procedures and cite Inner Line Permit as an extra-budgetary expenditure. Most of the tourists choose to go to other hill areas like Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand to enjoy their free time. The states miss a big chunk of revenue that could be utilized in the development of infrastructure in these states themselves. Moreover, intra-northeast trade is getting affected in large proportions as seventy percent area is under ILP regime, traders and workers have to travel from one state to another within northeast to earn their livelihood.
Insurgency is the most touted reason for the imposition of the ILP system, strangely removal of ILP is the only way this problem could be solved. Due to not realizing its full potential in terms of revenue generation, the states do not have much in their pockets to spend on the upliftment of those youngsters who join insurgency due to lack of opportunity in the job market. It is kind of
double whammy: the permit system on one hand is not allowing the states to realize their full potential, while on the other hand insurgent groups are hiring young guns to further propagate their evil causes.
The Northeast part of our country has a lot to offer in terms of its rich culture, beautiful scenarios, adventurous roads, talent pool, music and much more. As a citizen of India having freedom of movement guaranteed under the Right to Life of the constitution, it is one of the most outright absurd propositions imposed on its citizens by the Government to pay a bureaucratic structure some amount and wait patiently to travel in an area inherent to our nationality. Inner Line Permit system stands in direct contradiction to the idea of Ek Bharat, Shreshtha Bharat and needs to go not only from Leh but from all other regions where it is still operable. Every Indian will agree on the proposition that ‘You don’t need a “Visa” to travel in your own country’.