During my recent visit to Ranganathittu, I was shocked at the camera charges. While the authorities in general allowed visitors to take camera for free, people with SLR cameras and lens greater than 500 mm had to pay Rs 500.
This led me to think about the rationale of charging cameras.
I haven’t seen separate charges for cameras in developed world. Once the entry charges are paid, tourists are free to take photographs at their will. There are restrictions on using flash and tripods at certain locations but that is mainly to preserve the place. Restrictions are also in place for many sensitive locations which is understandable. But the story in India is different. From long time there are separate fees for using cameras at tourist places. It may be because the authorities considered that only rich people use cameras and they wanted a share of it. Video cameras (Handycams) were considered even more luxury items and charged 10-20 times more than still cameras.
The recent technological advances in mobile phones made this concept redundant. As more and more people started having smart phones, the need for a separate still and video camera reduced and Government earned less money. But then a new breed of people started coming in. The SLR camera became digital resulting in affordable photography. The professional DLSR and lens are still out of reach for many people but the price of amateur DSLR and lens are reduced. This led to people taking out their possessions and flooding many places especially forest reserves.
And then the separate charges for SLR cameras were introduced.
I looked for information behind the motive of this system but could get only limited insight from the link here.
The Government people have a perception that people will big camera and money earn money by taking photos at “their” forests and wanted a share of it. Try an experiment. Just take a photo of a bird or a tiger and try to sell it. No one buys them. One can earn his living by wedding, portrait and fashion photography but not from wildlife. All people I know earn money by associated business. Majority of people take photographs for the sheer fun of it and the joy it brings during the process of photography. But even if we consider that people earns money by photography, why should forest department charge fees for it? People would also write about their trip experience in papers and earn money or conduct commercial trips based on their experience. Can one charge for all those things? It is absurd and there is no end to the madness. Also, people have paid taxes when they have purchased cameras and manufacturer also paid taxes to government during the process. And if one earns by photograph he pays income tax for it (considering it is done legally).
Coming to Ranganathittu charges, the logic of 500mm look hilarious. If they are looking to charge rich people they should understand that one can get an average performing 150-600 lens for Rs 70,000 but a professional 400mm F2.8 Nikon lens cost more than ten lakhs!! The former has to shell out 500 rupees to take his camera in while it is free for the later!!
But I agree that if one starts demanding extra resources like a separate Jeep or boat to suit his needs or to regulate people (Movie, serial shooting) then there is no harm in charging extra.
Let me know your opinion about the same.