Summary of discussion with Horse-Cart owners
Horse carts provide for a much needed local transportation system in the area but while being part of the solution they are a cause of concern. The bulky animal carts and lack of maneuvering space create problems at the Nalanda ruins and at the Nalanda turning.
According to them, the traffic in the area has increased multifold but the roads and other infrastructure hasn’t seen any growth in that proportion.
Average daily income of a horse-cart owner is around Rs, 200 but there is no fixed rate list and it causes a lot of distrust among them. Much of the chaos and distrust can be seen in tourists who wonder if they are being overcharged for the services. Their first priority would be to develop a standard rate sheet with various available options which would make them more organized and help attract more tourists. They would also like more information on tour books that they can share with tourists and give them comprehensive information about all that the area has to offer. There is a cooperative that exists among them but it doesn’t seem to be able to function in its capacity because of mutual misunderstandings. It seems that some office bearers have flouted the rules for personal benefits and thus the members have lost their trust leading the cooperative to a near collapse. This uncooperative behavior is a big issue that they need to work out among themselves or with the help of a third party before any of the solutions can be implemented.
They also shared their experience with various tourists groups; and how based on the faith or language of the tourists they guide them to different destinations in the vicinity. They mentioned places of importance related to Bengalis and Jain tourists in particular. They seek an interdependent relation with the Nandawart Jain temple for handling the tourists’ arrivals there but the lack of cooperation within them needs to be first resolved. They agreed for a fresh start with a proposal to develop a new cooperative and nominated Shri Ravindra Ram as their leader for future action.
Discussion with Farmers
The farmers happily acknowledge that they are very proud that they are living so close to the Heritage or even own some of the land under which the archeological evidences might be buried. Their ancestors have donated precious lands for excavations when there was a need and also provided physical help during the excavation processes.
Although farmers are enthusiastic about the possibilities, they see themselves as the most disadvantaged lot for the fear of more land acquisition by the authorities without their consent and any mutual benefit. Their long term livelihood, family status and assets are invested in the land and they are responsive of the prospect of Nalanda being part of the UNESCO world heritage site in the near future and that would lead to an increased tourist activity in the area. As seen in the past these land acquisitions offer very little benefit to them and absolutely no opportunity to be a part of the conservation system. They give up their rights to till their own land but their interests never seem to be a priority for the government. They have been abiding by the rules laid out by the authorities but haven’t reaped any benefit of being such great citizens. According to them they have no option but to agree with the government if it decides to acquire their lands. Their alarming concern is yet another reason that the master plan is built with consensus and with taking every party into account rather than an imposed decision at the end.
Fig- Most of the present excavated mound was Farmers land as seen on the cadastral map
We presented them the current scenario and the growing needs of the tourism industry of the area and discussed with them the best possible solution. Being part of the process gives them a sense of belonging and empowers them with decision making authority, while laying out various options on a cadastral map, many suitable ideas were brain stormed and now that they have been involved and are aware of the limitations, they consent that the final plan would incorporate minimum land acquisitions while maximizing the tourism related benefits and conserving the treasured heritage.