Meet Anna Hazare for just Rs 600
The anti-corruption crusader's model village Ralegansiddhi has become a tourist hot spot.
Pune: After the great success of Anna Hazare's agitation for the Jan Lokpal Bill at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, everyone wants to meet the anti-corruption crusader. Sensing a business opportunity in the burst in his popularity, operators have arranged tours to Ralegansiddhi, the model village crafted by Hazare that is also his home.
A batch of 60 tourists left the city on Thursday for Ralegansiddhi, which is about 70 km away, and they are paying Rs 600 per head for the trip. Starting from the bus terminus at Deccan Gymkhana and armed with digital cameras and video-shooting devices, the interested tourists consist of IT professionals, small-scale industrialists and students who have finished their school exams.
It is interesting to note that the idea for the tour has originated from Baramati, the bastion of Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, who was targeted by Hazare during his fast-unto-death in New Delhi. Pandurang Taware, Director of Agro-tourism Development Corporation and a resident of Baramati, is the one dispatching this first batch of 60 tourists to Ralegansiddhi.
"The idea behind this scheme is that people can visit Ralegansiddhi to see the development work there and they can also take Anna's darshan," Taware said. "The scheme is getting huge response with hundreds of calls coming in from people from all walks of life in the city," he added.
'No loss, no profit'
Taware said that he was arranging such a tour in his professional capacity and it had nothing to do with any politician. He also claimed that the tour was a "no profit, no loss" scheme of his to show people Hazare's model village.
"Other spots like Ranjangaon and Morachi Chincholi are also included in the tour package and only Rs 600 per person has been charged," he said. "Two more such tours have been organised on the coming Saturday and Sunday and in subsequent weeks of April and May."
Suresh Pathare, personal assistant of Hazare, said, "Ralegansiddhi village has been gripped by 'Anna fever' and thousands of visitors are coming here to see how his village development model works."
Vijay Joshi, a government officer, said, "I am taking my family and children to Ralegansiddhi on Saturday. Instead of going to tourist places like Panchgani, I prefer to see Hazare's village. Many of my friends are also following my idea to visit the model village this summer."
Located near Parner taluka of Ahmednagar district, Ralegansiddhi is considered a model of environment conservation and village development since 1975, having achieved all this under the leadership of social activist Anna Hazare. The village has carried out many eco-friendly programmes, including tree plantation, terracing to reduce soil erosion, and laying canals to retain rainwater.
The village is known for generating electricity using non-conventional sources of energy, including solar power, biogas and windmills. The village is also known for 100 per cent ban on alcohol. Tourists can purchase many products made by the local women's self-help groups.
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