CHENNAI: In the absence of regulation by government and proper training of local residents who act as guides at Mahabalipuram, a UNESCO world heritage site which generates a huge revenue for Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), tourists are affected.
There is also no system in place to monitor whether these locals who have turned as guides are giving the right information about the monuments. Also, the charges they collect depend on the visitors.“It has been four years since the government provided training to local residents who are acting as guides. Since there are apprehensions as these people will ask for a job if we train, it was stopped for the time being. Again, the State government has to spend its money for training,” said a senior official from Tamil Nadu Tourism Department.
“Also we can’t monitor these locals on whether they are giving the correct information as there is no mechanism in place. We are now in the process of framing guidelines similar to Ministry of Tourism guidelines for selection, training and licensing of regional level tourist guides,” the official added.
There are over 45 residents at these heritage monuments who have been acting as guides for decades. Government trained a few and provided identity cards for over 20 people. Every two years, renewal is done.
“I have studied till Class 10 and have adopted this profession from my father and grandfather. My father was a route guide in tourist vehicles. Later, he became a tourist guide. I learned the history of Mahabalipuram from him. Over the years, I learned a little English,” says S Manikandan, a local resident.
“We are doing this for livelihood, because we know no other job. We were born and brought up here. We meet tourists and learn languages from them. Over the years, we developed a skill in explaining the history of this place. The government should provide us proper training and identity cards,” says G S Mohan, another local.
The ASI collects an entry fee for visitors at the site. For a domestic visitor, it is Rs 30 and Rs 500 for foreign tourists. Revenue data for 2017 shows ASI collected over Rs 3.50 crore from foreign visitors and Rs 3.23 crore from domestic tourists.
The UNESCO World heritage site attracted over 10.76 lakh domestic visitors and over 70,000 foreign visitors last year, according to ASI, Mahabalipuram sub-circle.A research scholar, who provided training to local residents says, “They are skilled at telling the stories and have been doing it for generations. So, the government should empower them by giving proper training.”