Beat guards double as guides to meet rush
Times of India By Himanshu Kaushik
"Since Diwali, I have not had the time to have two proper meals a day," says a beat guard who was posted at one of the check posts at the Gir sanctuary from where the tourist vehicles enter the forest area. During this Diwali vacation, the forest department issued as many as 150 permits a day, adding to the mad rush for safari ride in the Gir. This, coupled by a paucity of guides, has compelled many beat guards to double as guides, said the beat guard requesting anonymity.
"Earlier, during the peak season, it took me not more than two minutes to clear the rush. But these days it takes nearly four minutes to clear a single vehicle as most drivers of the lion safari want to complete the trip as soon as possible and come back for the second trip," he said.
When a vehicle reaches the check post, it takes some 20-25 minutes before it can actually enter the forest for safari, the beat guard said. Once his duty as beat guard gets over by 2 pm, he hops on to a safari vehicle as a tour guide to earn extra bucks and make up for the shortage of guides. This gets him an additional income of nearly Rs 150 per day.
"The rules do not allow us to double as guides, but since there was a shortage of guides during the festive season, several beat guards took it as an opportunity to earn more," he explained. A guide's duty is to ensure that no one gets down from the vehicles and also ensure that the vehicle is on the right route. The guard also complained that if the authorities were increasing the number of permits, they should have also ensured that there are at least four person deployed at the gates to check the entry and exit of vehicles.
There are about 50 odd guides in the sanctuary. Of these, 20 are new recruits. Another beat guard said he too earned an addition of over Rs 600 in these five days by serving as guide. He said the nearby small-time restaurant owners had a great time as they too had a large number of visitors. Besides, the beat guard would tie up with these hotels and get hired as a guide.
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