Every time school students descend at Fardapur, the foothills of the world heritage site of Ajanta Caves, Papinder Singh Waiti, a handicraft shop owner there, knows there is soon going to be huge commotion all around him.
Rupees forty every person for a two way ticket, announces the conductor on the glittering green luxury bus, the only fuel run vehicle allowed on the four kilometer run up to the caves.
The bus ostensibly is a pollution free one, that will emit no gases capable of doing any damage to the two thousand year old world heritage site that passenger are about to see.
As teachers sit down to do some quick math, they soon realize the fortune they will have to part with should they keep their promise to their students of treating them to the most precious paintings that the world has ever seen.
Students are allowed no concession, comes yet another announcement from the conductor preempting any questions that the teachers might put him.
Apart from luxury bus fare of Rs forty, each student will have to pay something for the electric focus, a must if he or she is to appreciate the paintings in any measure.
It takes about an hour and half of heated discussion with officials here for the teachers to realize the harsh reality.
"There is only one way, the students can negotiate the four kilometer uphill road – to walk down all the way to the caves,'' says Papinder Singh Waiti, who is now, as president of the Ajanta handicrafts' owners Association, organizing free ferries on Bullock carts, for passengers who arrive at the caves without doing the proper homework.
After all no one can deny how pollution free the good old bullock cart. And there is no ban on the carts.
Interestingly, school students, comprise the biggest chunk of visitors to the caves every year. It is estimated that nearly three lakh students descend from various part of the country to see the caves.
Earlier the association members met the divisional commissioner, Sanjay Kumar, bringing to his attention the plight of the lakhs of students coming to the caves. "But we received no response from him and the we let the carts on the road,'' Waiti said.
Regional manager of the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation, SS Gundekar, says as someone representing an agency to promote tourism in the state, he completely sympathises with the hardships of the students, but can do nothing about it. The Maharashtra State Regional Transport officials, who run the bus service never let us know of their decision to hike the bus fare (it was Rs 20 for a two way until December 23), he adds.
Meanwhile, for foreign tourist the bullock cart ride itself has become a focus of attraction with many preferring to take a bullock cart to reach the caves.