Saturday, 28 April 2012

Now, Cycle your way to Ajanta Caves

Eco-friendly tourists and enthusiasts can now cycle their way to the world heritage site — Ajanta Caves — from next month.According to reliable sources, tourists will now be able to take a bicycle ride on the 4-km-long (one side) journey from the T-point to Ajanta Caves. A separate track dedicated for bicycles is being constructed along the existing tarred road.
The district administration during 2011-12 had tabled a proposal for a separate track for bicycles before the District Planning Committee (DPC), which has okayed it and the work of the bicycles track has already been started under the supervision of the PWD.When contacted, Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) senior regional manager Chandrashekar Jaiswal did confirm the development, but directed this scribe to contact the office concerned. He, however, pointed out that the entry of private vehicles from the T-point was banned by the then district collector V Radha in 2002 and eco-friendly buses were introduced to carry tourists. "The aim behind the decision is to preserve and sustain the green cover around the world heritage site," he said, adding that the special buses are operated by the MSRTC.
According to Abrar Hussain, an approved tourist guide at Ajanta Caves, the world heritage site is being developed as a perfect eco-friendly destination. "The MTDC had banned entry of private vehicles at the base of the horse-shoe site of Ajanta Caves. Thanks to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), there is not a single mobile tower in its periphery. And now allowing tourists to ride bicycles is another welcome eco-friendly step," he said. The sources added that the district administration would be spending around Rs 4 crore on the construction of the bicycle track.
Bicycle craze in Aurangabad
Once upon a time, it was a craze among young FITs and economy class tourists to cycle their way to various places of interest in the city and heritage monuments like Bibi Ka Maqbara, Aurangabad Caves, Panchakki, museums and even Ellora and Khuldabad. Once the bicycle track is ready, the past will come alive, it is hoped.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Shahgunj Mandi in Aurangabad reduced to rubble

Shahgunj Mandi -- the only established source of procuring vegetables, fruits, dry fruits and spices for old city residents, has been reduced to rubble by the Aurangabad Municipal Corporation (AMC). Surprisingly, the stay order given by the district sessions court for some of the shops was conveniently ignored by the AMC. With the demolition of the structure built way back in 1966, some of the educated traders from the market were found running from pillar to post with the copies of the stay order, while the remaining were cursing the officials for depriving them of the place that provided them their bread and butter. LT visited the site to have a first-hand experience of the situation.
The very entry to the site reminds one of the unpopular scenes of debris often shown on television sets from the war-torn countries like Afghanistan and Iraq. Many burqa-clad women buying vegetables and many other unfamiliar faces taking advantage of the situation and laying their hands on steel rods, bricks and other things, add a special effect to the imagination of a war-torn Afghanistan. The dust in association with the air formed a thick layer, minimising the visibility in broad daylight to mere few feet, obviously giving a tough time for visitors to inhale oxygen sans dust. This dust resulted from the overtime-working of many JCBs demolishing the market structure consisting 173 shops on a land that allegedly was never owned by the AMC!
"Our family of five brothers and their children had entirely been dependent on this market for the past 40 years. It took just a couple of days to ruin our bread earning place," says Shakil Choudhari, who is at the forefront of the legal process on behalf of the thousands of market dependents. Adding further Choudhari said, "We showed them the stay order copies, but neither the AMC officials nor the police paid any heed. We are sure there is a very big conspiracy in demolition of this strong and large structure as the AMC is not ready to follow the legal procedure."
It was also learnt that JCBs had to change the digging buckets multiple times while demolishing the structure, making the claims of the AMC that the structure had become very weak, to fall flat on the face. Many people were seen taking away steel rods and bricks from the debris using vehicles. A nearby scrap shop was readily buying the 16 mm high quality steel rods stolen from the debris, for a paltry Rs 20/kg.  Most of the regular vegetable vendors were in a deep state of shock, as they were totally dependent on the Mandi for their livelihood. "Bhapkar (AMC commissioner) held several meetings with the vegetable vendors and traders of Aurangpura market, made an alternate arrangement for them, but what about us?" asked distressed Ramesh Sable.Making serious allegations, Sable added, "Bhapkar is being biased to the people in Shahgunj area just because many Muslim traders and vendors operate here. For the last two days, I am giving just Rs 30 to my wife to meet the household expenses. It is very unfortunate that few AMC officials in connivance of wealthy builders are trying to make big money at the cost of poor people and we are sure destiny will make them pay for this."
Sable has been vending vegetables for more than four decades, along with her widow mother, and his five-member family totally depends on the earnings made by him.
"Vegetables are getting wasted for want of buyers for the last two days. For us now only bleak future awaits," said Sonabai Baburao, who even threatened to end her life if no solution was found out soon. Daily visitors to the market are also upset with the move of the AMC for not making an alternate arrangement for the old city residents to buy vegetables and necessary items. One such regular visitor, Mohammed Akmal Khan, an architect by profession said, "The decision of the AMC to demolish such a flourishing market without making an alternate arrangement, shows the far-sightedness of the civic body, apart from indicating its ulterior motives."
Adding further Khan said, "With no proper market in place, most of the vegetables are getting wasted, while the remaining vegetables are being sold at higher prices, making it more difficult for the common man already reeling under the blow of inflation." Some have even suggested that temporary market can be shifted to Shahgunj bus stand. Owing to the lack of space for vegetable vending, many poor vendors are sleeping all night along the roadside so that the place is used for vending vegetable next day.
There are tens of hundreds of such cases in Shahgunj Mandi, wherein the bread winners are not sure of tomorrow and are blaming their fate in addition to cursing the AMC officials.  Whatever may be the fate of the vegetable vendors, one thing is for sure that the demolition move will make cooking food more dearer for the residents.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Now, pay 'garbage tax, Aurangabad AMC

Civic body moots proposal to charge money for clearing garbage Under the residential category, the proposed user charges (annually) are Rs. 120 from each flat or bungalow owner and Rs. 60 each from a slum-dweller annually. In the commercial category, the AMC has proposed to collect Rs. 6,000 from function halls, theatres and lawns; Rs. 12,000 from shopping malls; Rs. 1,200 from government and semi-government and private offices. lokmat news service

The Solid Waste Management Cell of the Aurangabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) has tabled a proposal seeking approval of the general body to levy charges for lifting garbage from residential and commercial properties so as to transform Aurangabad into a garbage-free city. The proposal states that the collection of user charges has been successful in Shimla, Dehradun, New Delhi and Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporations. Presently, the AMC collects three per cent from residential and 10 per cent from commercial properties for garbage handling under the head of property tax and does not levy a separate tax for this purpose. The administration says it will be possible for it to maintain clean roads, efficiently collect garbage, transport it, dispose it of and help in maintaining tidy and hygienic environment by levying user charges.

Under the residential category, the proposed user charges (annually) are Rs. 120 from each flat or bungalow owner and Rs. 60 each from a slum-dweller annually. In the commercial category, the AMC has proposed to collect Rs. 6,000 from function halls, theatres and lawns; Rs. 12,000 from shopping malls; Rs. 1,200 from government, semi-government and private offices; Rs. 600 from schools and colleges; Rs. 1,200 from hospitals; Rs. 2,400 from pathology laboratories; between Rs. 1,200 and Rs. 6,000 from Nursing Homes (on cot basis) and Rs. 3,600 from industries. 

The AMC has also proposed collecting Rs. 500 (daily basis) from organisers of temporary exhibitions, conventions and owners of slaughter houses. The demand of sanitation cess under the property tax during 2011-12 was Rs. 2.29 crore. If the proposal is okayed, the AMC would be earning Rs. 4.81 crore.