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Adventure tourism in Chambal ravines for Games visitors

Agra, July 17 (IANS) If chatting up with former bandits or traversing terrain infested with alligators is your idea of adventure tourism, then the Chambal ravines in central India may be the place to go – especially if you are a Commonwealth Games visitor.

Madhya Pradesh is starting a special programme to attract tourists during the Games to the Chambal ravines in Bhind district in collaboration with Uttar Pradesh and a private player, Chambal Safari. The area, after all, was home to some of India’s most feared outlaws at one time.

The programme, Chambal Challenge, will be held from Oct 11 to 17, partly overlapping with the Games in Delhi Oct 3-14.

Madhya Pradesh tourism officials said visitors would be taken in motor boats to Ater Fort in Bhind district, and they would get to see a wide range of flora and fauna in the Chambal sanctuary.

‘If tourists want they can spend a night in the wild in tents,’ an official said in Agra.

The visitors will not only get to interact with former bandits but also be treated to local folklore, music and songs, the typical Alha and Languria style of singing. State tourism plans a massive publicity drive to lure tourists to Bhind across Chambal.

Ram Pratap Singh, the man who started it all some years ago through his popular Chambal Safari expeditions, says the Ater Fort, around 800 years old, was the first fort to be taken up by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), Bhopal circle, for restoration.

‘They have done a splendid job in 10 years and I think in another 10 years you’ll have a wonderful tourist spot in the area, which has always suffered from a negative profile because of the notorious bandits of the Chambal valley,’ Singh told IANS.

From Agra via the Uri Mod and across the river Chambal, the distance is around 150 km.

‘Tourists can have the experience of their life, it’s a breathtaking and adventurous terrain. With alligators, the birds, the dreaded ravines, unlike any other place, it would be a perfect treat for the visitors,’ Singh said.

The Bhind district administration is spending around Rs.50 lakh to build suitable infrastructure to transport tourists to the Chambal valley.

‘We have contacted leading tour operators and agencies, and are trying to mobilise support for our innovative Chambal Challenge and we hope this will open a new avenue of progress in this ravine-curtained territory,’ an official told IANS.

Thirty years ago if one had taken a bus ride to Bhind, it would not have been surprising if one’s co-passenger turned out to be a dreaded bandit of the Chambal valley romanticised by Hindi films like ‘Yamuna Ganga’, ‘Jis Desh Men Ganga Bahti Hai’ and ‘Mujhe Jeene Do’.

Not so now. After the mass surrender of bandits before Sarvodaya leader Jayaprakash Narayan in 1974, the situation has drastically changed. The Bhind district with the Malanpur industrial area is now a new hub of development.

(Brij Khandelwal can be contacted at brij.k@ians.in)

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