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It was a very hot summer in May 2016, when your correspondent along with Chief Editor visited Jain Irrigation establishments in Jalgoan and while returning from there on, our way to Aurangabad, we stopped for a while to feel the glory and grandeur of one of India’s most beautiful historical monuments - Ajanta caves. Nearly 100 kilometer from Aurangabad, Ajanta caves are recognised as one of the world’s famous and creative monuments. The rock-cut beautiful Buddhist caves are the prominent attractions to both domestic as well foreign tourist.
Ajanta caves are the part of small hills in the area and we left our vehicle at main highway and from there boarded to a Maharashtra State Transport Bus for 4 kilometer journey to reach at the base of Ajanta caves. For this four kilometer journey tourists are required to pay just Rs 16. We went up the hill and mesmerised by the skills and architectural intelligence that Indian artists were blessed with, hundreds of years ago. Stunning paintings and sculptures really forced us feel amazed.
There were some shoppes at the base and they sell decorative items mainly Buddha statues and other stone works. While inquiring about prices of products at a shop, Rafeeq who owns a decorative products shop asked about us and as a goodwill gesture gifted miniature Buddha statue. We were thrilled and rushed back to catch the flight at Aurangabad.
All of a sudden, on Tuesday (October 17, 2017), after 17 months, a call from Ajanta was a pleasant surprise. “ Sir, I am Rafeeq, if you remember. I am calling you to help a large number of domestic and foreign tourists stranded here because of strike by employees of the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC). Many of them have to catch flights at Aurangabad. They are really in great trouble.”
Rafeeq’s concern about the stranded tourists really touched me. He had sent some video and audio clips which really highlight the plight of the tourists.
It is an irony that while people like Rafeeq were exploring all possible means to help the stranded tourists at the base, private bus owners are all out exploit them. They deployed buses to take them at main Highway and for that four kilometer journey, private buses are charging Rs 50 per person.
“It is really very disappointing to see that Maharashtra government and MSRTC are not taking necessary measures to help the tourists. Private buses are charging a hefty amount. If not Rs 16 like state buses, they should charge rationally,” Rafeeq adds.
Media reports from Mumbai said more than 65 lakh passengers travel by ST buses across the state every day and MSRTC has taken hit of Rs 22 crore because of loss of revenue during the Diwali peak season.
According to media reports, lakhs of passengers were inconvenienced across Maharashtra as state transport corporation buses stayed off the road because of the indefinite strike call given by the union to demand implementation of 7th pay ommission and interim relief of 25 per cent hike in salary.
Maharashtra Transport Minister Diwakar Raote has slammed the MSRTC union for going ahead with the strike and inconveniencing commuters during the festive season.
The state government has decided to allow private buses like school buses, tourist buses to ply as state transport bus ferrying commuters to their destination. Till Tuesday evening yearly 3800 private buses were pressed into service across the state. However, as Rafeeq puts up, the private buses owners have shown their true colour.
Let us hope, Ajanta caves does not loose its historic charm and attraction because of a wage related conflict between the state government and its employees.