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Tourists fail to keep Rajgir date

- Lakhs seen at Mahotsav venue, but most of them Nalanda residents

Rajgir, Dec. 30: Rajgir’s biggest event, the three-day Mahotsav, concluded on Monday with only a handful of outsiders taking note of it.

This year’s event failed to attract tourists unlike before. A galaxy of artists — singers like Kailash Kher, Kavita Seth and Madhushree — and an array of events ensured that the footfall at Arunoday Kila Maidan, the Mahotsav’s venue, was in lakhs. But most visitors were locals from Nalanda and nearby districts.

Traders who set up stalls at the Mahotsav corroborated the claim. “I could see only a Japanese tourist group over the past two days. Most others were locals who had not come to buy anything. Our sales were unsatisfactory. We attend many mahotsavs and melas. We’ve done better business elsewhere,” said Wasim, a cloth-seller from Kashmir.

Mohammad Masoom, a woodcraft seller from Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh, was also demoralised. “There are no tourists here. Most people are from nearby rural areas. These people mostly come to have some good time and do not buy much. Over the past two days, my sales have been around Rs 3,000-4,000, much less than expected,” said Masoom.

While inaugurating the Mahotsav on Saturday, chief minister Nitish Kumar had claimed that 2.14 crore visitors from India and over 70,000 tourists from abroad come to Rajgir every year.

But hotel owners confirmed the low turnout this year. “Some Bengali tourists can be seen, but they come every year towards year-end. Hardly any tourist has come specifically for the Mahotsav. Events like these demand huge investment to attract tourists,” said the owner of a leading hotel here.

B. Pradhan, principal secretary, tourism, said the budget for this year’s Rajgir Mahotsav was around Rs 90 lakh.

Locals complained of administrative slackness during the Mahotsav. “Hundreds of students from local, government as well as private, schools in Nalanda had gone all decked to perform at the Mahotsav on Sunday. However, the district administration denied them permission at the last moment,” said Brajesh Kumar, a shopkeeper at Rajgir. He said there was a ruckus between the crowd and the police at the Mahotsav entrance. Nalanda superintendent of police (SP) Jitendra Rana denied any such commotion. District magistrate Palka Sahni was not available for comment.

Though thousands of decorative lights hung from trees on the main road leading to the Mahotsav ground, locals complained of lack of streetlights in the town area.

“Probably for the first time, most street lights here are not functioning on most other roads at the time of Rajgir Mahotsav,” said Surendra Singh of Rajgir.