BHUBANESWAR: Members of Konark Surakhya Samiti on Saturday closed down the ticket counter at the World Heritage monument - Sun temple at Konark - after the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), Bhubaneswar circle, implemented the hike in entry fees at its protected monuments in Odisha. Terming the move as inappropriate, they demanded the ASI to roll back the decision forthwith. As the protesters closed the ticket counter, tourists were unable to enter the monument.
The entry fee at Sun temple has been increased from Rs 10 per head to Rs 30 for Indian nationals and tourists from SAARC and BIMSTEC countries. For tourists from other countries, the entry price has been increased from Rs 250 to Rs 500.
Similarly, entry fee of four other monuments will be Rs 15 against the earlier Rs five for Indian nationals and tourists from SAARC and BIMSTEC countries. For visitors from other countries, the price is Rs 200.
There are five ticketed-monuments in the State including Khandagiri caves, Rajarani temple and the Buddhist sites at Ratnagiri and Lalitgiri.
Apart from regular tickets, the Sun temple and other monuments will offer high value tickets priced at Rs 750 and Rs 300 per head respectively. Visitors purchasing the high value tickets will be provided free water bottle, Wi-Fi connectivity, mementoes and CDs with pictures and films of monuments. Besides, there will be a separate queue for people purchasing tickets worth Rs 750, Rs 500, Rs 300 and Rs 200 for easy entry into the monuments. The price hike comes after a period of over 15 years as the last hike was in 2000.
Opposing the hike, members of Konark Suraksha Samiti locked the ticket counter at the temple and staged a demonstration alleging that though the monument has been generating a lot of revenue, its conservation has been slow and there are no amenities for visitors inside.
President of the Samiti Sarat Jayasingh said the Sun temple is the highest revenue earning monument and only World Heritage monument in the State.
But, neither the ASI nor the State Government have been serious about its conservation.
Money sanctioned by the Centre for its development is being embezzled by authorities concerned, he alleged.
Later, they submitted memoranda to Minister of State for Tourism and Culture Mahesh Sharma, Puri Collector and Superintending Engineer of ASI, Bhubaneswar Circle, AK Patel.
Patel said conservation works are being carried out regularly.
Currently, joint sealing works are being undertaken at Sun temple. The Central Building Research Institute (CBRI), which has undertaken several studies in Konark including laser scanning, is yet to submit its report to ASI. The CBRI started the studies two years back and once the report is submitted, the ASI committee on Sun temple headed by GC Mitra will take a decision on the conservation works, he added.