At the end of 2000 the Archaeological Survey of India decided to charge foreigners the equivalent of US $5 for entry to all the sites it runs, including Buddhist sacred sites. This has led to even more mismanagement and corruption than usual. For example in Sarnath you pay your fee, are given your ticket and enter the ruins. The ticket is a tiny piece of paper easy to loose or misplace. As you walk around the ruins guards persistently approach you and ask to see your ticket in the hope that you can’t find it and if you can’t you will have to pay them ‘baksheesh’. The alternative – to be fined R500. At other sites they sometimes claim that they are all out of tickets and that you can just give them the money, which of course they pocket for themselves, The alternative – to refuse to pay and go away without seeing what you have come so far to see. These and a dozen other scams are now making visiting Buddhist sites rather unpleasant. Sarnath, the Vulture’s Peak at Rajgir and Kusinara are particularly bad. But there is something we can all do to lift the fee on Buddhist sites and hopefully improve the way they are managed. If you encounter any hassles or corruption (guards acting as guides without being asked, touts, people trying to sell you things ) while in A.S.I sites, write a polite letter detailing the corruption you experienced and your unhappiness with it. Also say that you feel that it is inappropriate to charge pilgrims to enter Buddhist holy places. Send the letter to The Director, Archaeological Survey if India, Janpath, New Delhi. Mention also that you have sent one copy each to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Tourism, Mr. Ananth Kumar. Their addresses are:
Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Prime Minister of India
The Prime Minister’s Office
South Block, Raisina Hill
New Delhi, India -110 011
Tel: 91-11-3012312. Fax: 91-11-3019545 / 91-11-3016857
Home Page: pmindia.nic.in/writetous.htm
Mr. Ananth Kumar, Minister of Tourism
#501, 5th Floor, C Wing, Shastry Bhavan
Dr. Rajendra Prasad Road
New Delhi, India -110 001
Tel: +91-11-461 0350
Home Page: www.ananth.org.
If enough letters are received it just might change things for the better.