Within 10 days of being opened for the public, the Statue of Unity at Kevadia Colony in Narmada district is witnessing heavy footfall. For the second consecutive day on Saturday, the ticket window at the statue had to be closed within a few hours of opening.
As many as 28,409 tourists, the highest so far, visited the statue on Saturday, taking the single day collection to Rs 48.44 lakh. The statue has made a total collection of Rs 1.26 crore within three days since November 8.
While the officials had pegged the expected number of visitors at 15,000 for the weekend on account of Diwali, Hindu New Year and Bhai Dooj, the number increased to 17,280 on Thursday itself. On Friday, the number increased to around 23,000.
An official said, “Each elevator up to the viewing gallery has a capacity of 25. The capacity of the elevator is around 600 to 700 per hour, depending on how long one stays at the top. The gallery can accommodate 200 persons at a time. Hence, the per day capacity is about 6,000 of which 1,000 tickets are online as of now and the rest are sold on site.”
Owing to such huge number of visitors, the ticket counters were closed early, leaving many disappointed as they could not visit the viewing gallery. On Saturday, after tickets for entry to the viewing gallery were sold to a maximum capacity of 6,973 persons, the ticket counters were closed at 10.30 am. “We accommodated tourists to the maximum capacity but many were left disappointed,” an official said.
The tourists have blamed a lack of management at the site. While some took to social media to express their disappointment, others targeted tour operators from Vadodara that had booked trips to the statue.
One of the tour operators said, “We took 56 visitors to the site but they couldn’t go up to the gallery as the tickets were sold out. They had queued up at 7.30 am and at 1 pm they were told that tickets won’t be issued. In such situations, the booking counters must ensure that the queue is only as long as the available tickets. In the end, the tour operators were blamed for the fiasco.”
Another visitor complained of a lack of shuttle buses from the parking lot to the site. “Private cars are not allowed beyond the parking lot. Visitors have to rely on the shuttle buses for which they pay separately. But the management at the site is unable to provide enough buses,” said Trupti Patel, who visited the site on Friday.
Sources in SVPRET (Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Rashtriya Ekta Trust), which manages the Statue, said that considering Friday’s turn out, the government had decided to cap tickets early morning Saturday so as to not disappoint waiting tourists.
However, the area witnessed an 8-km long traffic jam on Saturday on the Dabhoi-Kevadia highway owing to the rush of visitors. Vadodara police had be roped in to assist Narmada police for security arrangements.
Confirming the high number of visitors on Saturday, Narmada District Collector R S Ninama said the administration was expecting the figure to increase further on Sunday. “The number of shuttle buses has been increased from 15 to 40 for Sunday,” PTI quoted him as saying.
A government release appealed to the visitors “to plan their trip keeping in mind the timing as well as the capacity of the infrastructure at the Statue of Unity”.