Is the Indian Government getting more stingy about the duration of visas it issues to backpackers who supposedly come to stay in the Himalayas for months to enjoy the easy access to cheap drugs? And with a good number of these from Israel, is the Israeli Government getting worried about the image of its country?
During my recent trip to Mcleodganj and surrounding areas in the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh I met Nimrod, one of the thousands of Israelis for whom this region of the Himalayas are Shangri-La – not mythical but real; many of them are supposedly here to unwind after undergoing the rigours of compulsory military training. Or at least this is what a lot of people told me. The Israeli Government seems to be getting concerned about the image of their country with its citizens ‘reveling’ in the Himalayas according to an acquaintance of mine; while consumption of drugs was commonplace, he claimed to have seen them having an orgy in the jungles once. But nothing seems to have been done to date.
But what are the Indian authorities doing about such open flouting of the laws of the land? Were the police really cracking down on the drugs trade? Nimrod was not sure. I later met a cop named Surender, and he too was not sure of any sustained action by the police; there were only occasional ‘raids’ at best according to him.
There are also talks of visas to those from Israel being issued for shorter periods keeping in mind visitors who stay on for months or even years. On asking if he had faced any restrictions, Nimrod replied, “I have been here for a year, but there were no problems in my case; I am half-Israeli and half-French and hold a French passport. My visa expires in two months, and I do not know where I will be after this. I take things one day at a time.”
No one is really sure what is being done to put an end to this ‘drug tourism’ especially since no country has, or can have, fixed visa rules; there is always an element of discretion in these. Till then, enjoy the high.