In Focus

Hazards Galore

As tourists embark from the launches transporting them from Gateway of India at Mumbai onto Elephanta’s spanking new jetty (an old one has been put out of public use and is retained by locals for personal travel), they can avail a mini-train ride to the base of the caves for Rs 10. A few minutes later, after traversing a curved extension to the jetty, the mini-train drops tourists to the base of the island. Here, tourists have to dodge an onslaught of cows, goats and stray dogs who chase tourists for a bite or two if not the entire carry-away snacks of say corn (butta) or fruits being transported on person.

Launches transport tourists from Gateway of India at Mumbai to Elephanta
For the visitor to the island, it is an arduous climb of 120 steps all the way from the base of the island at the jetty right upto the caves on top. And, if you aren’t quite up to the mark, as is usually the case, you’ll find yourself stopping along the route every few steps to catch your breath along with similarly-exhausted travellers.

So, to assist your ascent are a host of ‘Dolly Drivers’ who physically lift you up till the top seated on a wooden open palanquin called a ‘Dolly’, for a price of course. Elephanta Island’s Chandrakant Mali, Shankar Patil, Gopal Gharat and others, locals and all septuagenarians line up for their turn to lift those out-of-shape or out-of-breath as may be from the base of the Island up the 120 steps, till the entrance of the caves.

Now, the catch here isn’t just climbing the 120 steps. Each step is on a steep slope making the climb even tougher. And, if there’s a lot of space between two steps, you can be sure of having to trudge along a steep incline without a break. They are guaranteed to give the fittest a bit of breathlessness till the end at the top for a bit of relief.

The local sexagenarians make three to four trips up and back to base to tug another till the top through each day. And, all without as much as a whimper of complaint. After all, that’s all they have to earn their keep!

This report has been prepared for DraftCraft International’s Flagship Initiative, The Elephanta Island Project to research, analyse and determine the rights and liabilities of Islanders, local and foreign tourists vis-a-vis the responsibility of the State towards all stakeholders and natural resources while upholding the law of the land and ensuring the protection of environment that tops the list of priorities. The initiative examines laws and policies regarding islands, sea transport, privacy, women’s rights, health, protection of the environment and rights and liabilities of tourists guaranteed to all by the State in context of the Right To Equality, Freedoms, The Right to Life and Global Conventions to which India is a signatory.