Vijayapura: On June 7 when the Union Government reopened monument for public viewing in second phase of lifting of lockdown, Jahangir Kudgi was happy and hopeful of returning to the historic Gol Gumbaz which is source of his earning. Working as tourist guide along with seven other guides, Jahangir is one of the 1050 tourist guides of the State who are working at different ASI protected monuments for several years. These guides who get only a license from the Tourism Department and no other benefits, essentially depend at the mercy of the tourist to pay as government gives no financial aid. “We have been jobless since middle of March when the ASI closed all their monuments when the Covid pandemic began spreading in the country”, Jahangir said who became tourism guide after completing graduation and undergoing guide training conducted by Tourism Department. During the lockdown, the administration offered them food kits which are the only benefit they got from the government. He said that after lifting of lockdown in second phase, the guides were hopeful that they would receive some tourists, but even the lifting of lockdown has brought no change in their lives.

Vijaykumar Bandi who is also a tourist guide said that the tourist who come from Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and some State of North India, normally hire guides. Only a few guides who are good at English, are hired by foreign tourist. “The lockdown has though been lifted and monuments are opened for visitors. But except some locals, no one from other States are arriving, leave alone foreigners. These locals come here only for recreation”, Vijaykumar said.

Ashok Mayachari, State president, Tourist Guides’ Union said that the State has around 1,050 registered guides who have undergone training and obtained licenses from Department of Tourism to work as guides. He said that each guide earn between Rs. 10,000 to Rs 15,000 a month based on the places. Guides working in Bengaluru and Mysuru earn little more than their counterparts of Vijayapura or Bagalkot or Hampi. He said that since the guides get neither salary nor any incentive from the government, only the tourists meet their both end meet. “But since nearly five months, we have no earning. The life has become miserable. Several of us have borrowed money from friends and relatives to family expenses”, he said.

Mayachari said that for the last several years, the guides have been urging successive governments to pay a minimum remuneration to the guides which will help them sustain during crises “But till date, our demands have not been met,” he said. Meanwhile, Jahangir is planning to start a road-side eatery with this limited savings. “I had undergone cookery training from RUDSET. Using that knowledge, I am now planning to open a small eatery. I waited for too long for the tourists to arrive. But now, I am losing my patients and saving also. Before I run away from the remaining saving, I will have to do something. That is why, I am no planning to start an eatery”, he said. Amid this, the Tourism Department officials said that they have received memorandum from the association seeking financial aid from the government. “Since we can’t take any decision on it, we have forwarded the memorandum to the Tourism Ministry”, the officials said.