BHUBANESWAR: A visit to the Sun Temple at Konark has become more taxing though unofficially. Apart from the Government imposed entry tax to the World Heritage site, a tourist has to cough up some extra bucks to the cops for access to the temple in a car.
This was realised by a group of tourists to the Black Pagoda during their recent trip. As their car went towards the temple from Chandrabhaga, they were stopped before the entry gate by a Home Guard. The driver told the tourists to pay Rs 50 to the man in khaki to go ahead. Though reluctant, they paid the amount and visited the temple.
According to official order, the stretch from Chandrabhaga to the temple gate is a prohibited area. Besides the Government approved vehicles, others cannot use the road without "satisfactory reasons".
Ironically, the "satisfactory reasons" has turned a boon for unscrupulous cops and bane for the tourists.
The driver of the car said a guard is deployed at the police aid post in front of the temple gate. But when tourists come, he goes 500 metres towards Chandrabhaga beach and demands money to let their vehicle pass. It has been the practice for several years.
“Earlier, the policemen used to charge Rs 20. But it increased to Rs 50 last year,” a car driver Pradipta Sahoo said. Besides, the unofficial cess goes up to `100 for taxis which bear the registration number of other districts or neighbouring States. The collection is all the more easy from vehicles carrying foreign tourists.
When the matter was brought to the notice of Puri SP Sarthak Sarangi, he said the route between Chandrabhaga beach and Sun Temple gate is not free for all vehicles. “Only Government officers on duty can use this route to approach the temple. However, there is no provision for collection of money and on what basis the fee is charged will be inquired,” Sarangi said.