Pune: Khadakwasla Chowpatty allowed, but Sinhagad Fort remains closed for tourists; Locals question rationale

Pune: This weekend, as usual, hundreds of tourists visited the Khadakwasla Chowpatty and enjoyed their time along the waters of the Khadakwasla dam with food stalls and other vendors serving them with different items… However, a few kilometres away, the historical Sinhagad fort still remains closed for tourists. Locals have questioned the rationale behind this decision of the district administration as they face a crisis of their livelihood.

The Khadakwasla Chowpatty has been reopened for tourists and stall operators allowed by police on the basis of oral orders of senior police officers. This is being allowed despite the orders of the District Collector to keep tourist destinations like Sinhagad Fort, Khadakwasla Dam and Panshet Dam closed due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

The then District Collector Naval Kishor Ram had on June 7, 2020 issued an order to close down all tourist spots in the Pune district considering the rapid spread of coronavirus in these regions.

The district administration recently allowed trekking activities with certain guidelines to be followed, however several citizens who are going to Sinhagad fort are being turned away by the forest officials. The contradictory orders and subsequent confusion about the status of ban on tourist activities has angered Puneites as well as the locals.

Sadashiv Shelar, Senior Inspector of Haveli Police Station said, “Rupali Chakankar, the state women’s wing president of Nationalist Congress Party had met Superintendent of Police (Pune Rural) Dr Abhinav Deshmukh and requested to allow reopening of Khadakwasla Chowpatty. Accordingly, as per instructions from seniors, the stalls were allowed to operate at the Chowpatty provided they follow all the rules and guidelines.

”Deepak Pawar, Bhamburda Forest Range Officer said, “We have not allowed stalls or visitors on the Sinhagad Fort as per the district collector office order. We have not given permission to any tourist place under the jurisdiction of the forest department in the Pune district.

”Amol Padher, a resident at Sinhagad said, “The fort has been closed for eight months. We are not even allowed to sell tea, bhaji and other food items to visitors who manage to reach the fort base. The visitors, tourists are being turned away by the forest officials. If the stalls at Khadakwasla Chowpatty are allowed to be operated then why not at the Sinhagad Fort?”

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