New Delhi, Feb 13 (PTI) Describing touts as a “menace”, Union Culture minister Mahesh Sharma today said harassing or touching tourists could soon be a criminal offence, even punishable under the provisions of organised crime.

He said his ministry was in talks with the Home ministry regarding this and has also spoken to the Uttar Pradesh chief minister to find ways to deal with touts harassing tourists, especially those visiting the Taj Mahal.

“We are exploring how we can bring this ‘lapka culture’ (culture of touts) to an end by bringing them under the ambit of serious offences and organised crime so that they can be booked accordingly.

“First, we will warn them, then we will identify them and then we will punish them…We want to bring this in by April 1. These touts are a menace,” the minister said.

Sharma, who met senior officials of the Agra district recently, said many tourists, both domestic and foreign, who visit the Taj Mahal are “ambushed” at the station itself and the harassment continues during their stay in the city.

He added that his stand on touts was not just restricted to the protection of tourists at the Taj Mahal, but also other places across the country.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.