VISAKHAPATNAM: The closure of the damaged railway line to Araku for repairs ahead of the tourist season is taking a toll on the business of the local cabbies and auto drivers at Araku, Ananthagiri and the other tourist hotspots in the Vizag agency. With no business this tourist season, more than 500 cabbies who ferry the tourists on trips are on the verge of losing their livelihood. Many cab drivers are even migrating to other districts and city in search of green pastures.
According to the cabbies, the business has almost come to zero and this is for the first time in decades. There are around 500 families which eke out their living from cab business apart from 150 auto drivers in Ananthagiri and Araku. Around 30 jeeps ply in Ananthagiri area ferrying tourists to Katika waterfall and other getaways.
Usually, the tourist inflows to Araku and other places in the Agency begins from the last week of October. But, almost 80 percent of the total tourist prefer train travel for the thrilling experience of the scenic landscape of Araku Valley and tunnels. Further, the cabbies are hopeful of a good business this season as the Visataome coach, the first such facility in India, was introduced.
But, age-old railway bridge near the Borra Caves was badly damaged in the recent rains, leading to the suspension of train services on the route till the repair works are completed. As per the railway officials, the works will not be completed before December 12.
Taxi, auto drivers seek distress aid
With a lean tourist season looming large, the local cabbies and auto drivers have sought distress aid from the government. “The government is giving special incentives to farmers during crop loss and extends help to fishermen during the fishing ban period.
We urge the government to extend help to the drivers of Araku and Ananthagiri too,” says P Aadi Narayana Reddy, a representative of Araku and Borra Caves Drivers Association. There is no clarity as to when the train services will resume and it may take the entire tourist season. Many drivers have to pay their financiers and some maxi cab owners pay charges to the government every three months. The government should respond to pleas, he adds.
No of families dependant on cab services for livelihood
No of auto drivers in Ananthagiri and Araku areas