Rajasthan is a state that is full of contrasts. And with its history of royalty and opulence, it is hard to avoid the issue that poverty is one of these contrasts. However, this is delicate territory because it is considered a bit of a cliché that India is a land of beggars and thieves, all out to make a tourist buck. It isn’t true.
Recently, the Indian government stated that more than 21 percent of its population is below its official poverty limit which, with a population of 1.3 billion, is a lot of people. Too many people. In Rajasthan, however, the percentage is two thirds of this figure - 14 percent - and so even though this is still a big issue for government, it is not something people should fear, or make western assumptions about either. That is not to say that the income divide in Rajasthan doesn’t have an impact on tourism. It does. As you will see from our other responsible tourism points below, most of these relate back to a need for money. Tigers are still being poached for money, camels and elephants are mistreated for money. In reality, an elephant ride could feed a small family for a week. Sex tourism, and indeed child sex tourism is more and more in demand in Rajasthan too, with people being trafficked and lured away with a promise of a better lifestyle.
Our point is that although tourism can act as a force for positive change and, if you travel responsibly, your money will be directed to the right place and used sustainably, Indian people are tired of outsiders calling them poor. So many are working incredibly hard to make an honest living, they are culturally aware, want to protect their environment and engage in interesting debate. We are not asking you to turn a blind eye to poverty where it exists. We are asking you to open your eyes to all the positive changes going on too, and not arrive with poverty hang-ups.