Visitor centres at Ajanta, Ellora caves shut due to pending dues worth Rs 5 cr
Aurangabad, Dec 15: Two tourist visitor centres set up at the Ajanta and Ellora caves by the Maharashtra government with funding from the Japanese International Co- operation Agency (JICA) have been shut due to their pending water and electricity dues worth Rs 5 crore, an official said.
The centres, which were supposed to serve as a one- stop location for all information about history and importance of these world famous UNESCO heritage sites, have replicas of some sculptures located inside the caves. The state government set up the two centres, having facilities like audio-visual presentations and library, in 2013 for which Rs 125 crore was spent in two phases, the official told PTI.
A big chunk of this fund came from JICA, he said, on condition of anonymity. The facilities ran smoothly for sometime but have been closed since September last year as they do not have water and power supply, he said.
"The dues of these two centres are now running into Rs five crore," he said. "The Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) demanded funds from the government five to six times to clear the dues. We got Rs five crore last year, but it went in clearing old dues," he said.
The MTDC needs around Rs 10 crore to clear all the dues and to make these centres operational, the official said, adding that the government should sanction regular funds for these facilities. "These centres have replicas of sculptures in the Ajanta and Ellora caves. Using multimedia, these facilities make tourists understand the Jataka tales. This helps in reducing the time spent by visitors in the caves, which will in-turn help in the longevity of these monuments," he said.
"The Japanese government spent money on this project. If these centres remain closed for a long time, then their whole purpose becomes meaningless. This will also affect the image of our country and the state," he said.
The government should plan something concrete for the sustainability of such centres, he added. Historian Dr Dulari Qureshi said people like her had opposed the way government finalised the project before 2013. People travel thousands of miles to visit the Ajanta and Ellora caves. They prefer to spend time in the caves rather than seeing their replicas (at the tourist visitor centres), she said.
"These centres surely help elderly tourists who cannot walk for long. But to make these facilities sustainable, the commercial angle also needs to be looked into. There should be additional facilities like a cafeteria, hotel and a hub to showcase local items," Qureshi said.