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Can tourism be promoted by mortgaging heritage?

Maharashtra Forts Heritage Marriage Hall,Save Forts,MonumentsFollowing the footsteps of Rajasthan and neighbouring Goa, Maharashtra government has decided to convert historical forts of the state into heritage hotels and wedding venues. The state government believes that this will boost tourism as well as revenue of the exchequer. As of now, 25 forts have been recognised for this purpose. On the other hand, opposition leaders have lashed out at Fadnavis government and questioned its decision regarding marketing the valour of great warriors of the state.

It is worth mentioning that there are 350 forts in Maharashtra, out of which around 100 forts are in protected list of the Archaeological survey of India (ASI).  Nowadays, palace and fort hotels have become popular as venues of destination weddings. On September 3, the state Cabinet approved new heritage policy. It allows the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) to lease out state-owned forts which are not in ASI list. These forts will be converted into residential hotels and venues for weddings and entertainment shows.

Maharashtra’s Tourism Secretary Vinita Vaid-Singhal said, “We don’t plan to touch heritage forts which have historical value and are protected under the ASI like the Raigad fort. The state government has already budgeted over Rs 500 crore for its upgradation.”

Singhal further stated that there are many which are not in the protected list which are frequented by people for picnics, hiking , etc. These are blessed with beautiful landscape and have history and tradition and can be used for tourism as we want to give impetus to the local economy. She made it clear that the policy also makes it clear that the local flora and fauna will be protected and no permanent constructions in these forts will be allowed. Social events which fit into the fabric of Maharashtra’s political life will be allowed.

Meanwhile, NCP MP Supriya Sule and Amol Kolhe and MLA Jitendra Awhad have openly criticised the Fadnavis government’s decision. Social media is also witnessing disapproval of youths in this regard.

NCP MP Supriya Sule tweeted, “The Forts in Maharashtra depict the valour of great leaders like Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and our glorious history. Strongly oppose Maharashtra Government’s decision of converting Forts into Heritage hotels and wedding venues.”

NCP MLA Jitendra Awhad tweeted, “Shocking …. It’s a part of history sentimentally linked with every #MarathiManoos a sad story they talk of taking blessings of #ShivajiMaharaj and on the other hand want to destroy the forts for materlistic gains . #shame.”

Dhananjay Amberkar a resident of Andheri said, “The government has forgotten that several people have laid their lives for the protection of forts. Tanaji had sacrificed his life for the protection of forts where wedding event will be organised. The government has decided to convert historical forts into heritage hotels and wedding venues. If the government fails to rethink over its decision then we will protest against it. If wedding function and other events are held on these forts then we will try to prohibit them.”

By Dipti Joshi

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