Mahajan stands at the edge of the canyon, his nails piercing into the railing, eyes scorching the horizon for the trace of a moving vehicle and ears straining to catch the sound of a running motor. No he is not waiting for the arrival of someone dear but for a pittance upon which would add up to form the basis of his livelihood. Mahajan is one of the 8 guides appointed by the Madhya Pradesh Government at the lesser known Ken National Park. It’s shocking to note that the Government appoints them but doesn’t pay them a salary. The Rs. 40 that is charged per vehicle as mandatory fees towards guide is divided among the 8 guides and each one gets Rs 5. This would sum up to the pittance that Mahajan receives during a day; even a beggar in Delhi asks for a minimum of 10 bucks from a person. On the best days, there would be about 50 cars visiting and he would earn Rs 250 but those days are few and far between. The worse days are during the summer months of May and June, when there will not be any tourists visiting the park for months but he would have to report on duty everyday, working his way up from the neighboring village. The government reasons that their farming income would be able to sustain their family on the days when they do not earn anything but do they have enough time to take care of farming once they have been assigned to the Park?
he rushes to the car, eagerly welcoming the guests, diligently showing them around and sharing his knowledge, clicking their pictures and doing anything in his might to please them in order to earn his only respite: the tip paid by the tourists at their own discretion. Mahajan does not ask for a tip and happily accepts whatever is offered to them as his fate with his head bowed in reverence. He waves goodbye to the tourists with a warm smile shouting the parting words, “Please do visit again, perhaps in monsoons, when the water fills up the canyon.”
Such little is known about this spectacular canyon composed of igneous rocks of granite ad quartz and which forms the passage through which Ken River flows. The Government is doing little to promote this beautiful place where the only means of livelihood is tourism or improving the means of transport to get there so that the number of vehicles improves. In developed countries the Government pays compensation to the unemployed citizens of the country whereas in India the Government can’t pay a meager salary to its own employees but can spend crores of rupees on Brand Building exercises like the recently held Commonwealth Games. If Government doesn’t pay its employees like Mahajan who are striving hard to earn their living what can one expect from the Capitalists!