Summary of discussion with the guides
The last attempt made by the Tourism department to train any guide was in 1975 and there are about 15 guides from that training session who are still operational in the business. They are in their late 40s and ever since the training they haven’t been involved in any formal or informal meetings by the ASI officials. Their grudge is that their perspective and contribution is never regarded with the importance that it deserves.
The discussion with them provides a feedback from the perspectives of the tourists and how the site can be more viable. Though the site receives around 3 lac visitors annually there is no facilitation room for the tourists. The site opens at 9 am and closes at 5 pm, unlike other archaeological sites that are open from sunrise to sunset. The restricting timings are very inconvenient to many visitors; particularly those who stay overnight at Rajgir and plan to leave for other places in the morning while making a quick stop at Nalanda on way. The public facilities at site are from 15 years ago and they need to be updated. The tourist numbers to the site increased incredibly in the past some time but the facilities provided haven’t increased at the same rate.
The next set of suggestion includes the management outside of the site itself. The chaos of uninformed visitors during peak hours can be contained by proper planning and effective management. The authorities, based on the available statistics, should be able to anticipate the increased number and be prepared to handle the crowd. The traffic management at the site should improve with better coordinated parking spaces.
On the subject of the visitors’ complains about the services provided by the guides, they agreed that there is much that is desired and that the guide standards need to come at par. They agreed that there is no procedure or standard route or information that they are required to follow; and since the income is based on the quantity of the visitors they cater to and not the quality, it has gone down over the years. In the current pricing system there is no incentive for providing more and detailed information and so they keep it to the bare minimum and on an average they devote 30 to 40 minutes for each tour of the ruins.
Summary of discussion with Vendors
We had a series of small meetings with the vendors catering directly to the tourists in the area. The intention of such a dialogue was to determine their perspective on a shared plan for community participation in tourism and ask them what can benefit both the vendors and the tourism. They shared a similar thought that the present chaos at the entrance is not in the interest of tourism and doesn’t benefit them in the long term either.
They would welcome constructive and mutually beneficial solutions but feared that ASI might be not be interested in their development. The land they are currently using belongs to PWD and much of the land between the road and the boundary of Nalanda remains is privately owned by the farmers. They wondered if the ASI department has forcefully grabbed the farmers land with help of district administration.
The vendors are presently not organized but would like to be a part of the community involvement and appreciated the idea of a vendors’ cooperative which would provide them effective representation in the decision making process. Such a cooperative could facilitate conflict resolutions and devise an agreement for the use of available infrastructure. Licensing of vendors and benefit from other cooperative action are also some other incentives and all this allowed for a speedy consensus for formulating a cooperative. They are aware that it is a slow process and would require continued participation from each and every one of them and to begin with they have nominated Shri Naro Singh as their leader. They requested that in the final master plan the vendors should be located near the exit of the complex where the visitors are likely to make a stop to take souvenirs home before continuing their journey.