Coronavirus in Madhya Pradesh: Footfall at ASI monuments drop by 90% amid pandemic

BHOPAL: The number of tourists, visiting the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) protected monuments in Madhya Pradesh, dropped by 90% because of the corona pandemic.

Of the 290 ASI-protected monuments in the state, 60 ‘living monuments’ were reopened on June 8 while others were reopened on July 6, after a gap of almost four months.

Before COVID, 4,000 to 5,000 tourists visited Mandu every day. That has now reduced to 500. Mandu has 61 monuments including Jahaz Mahal, Rani Roopmati Mahal, Baz Bahadur Mahal and Jama Masjid.

Conservation assistant, ASI, Mandu, Prashant, told Free Press that monsoon is the peak tourist season in Mandu. In pre-COVID times, 2,000 to 3,000 tourists visited the place on weekdays and 4,000-5,000 on Sundays. Now, the monuments are closed on Sundays due to lockdown.

Mandu is close to the state’s borders with Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Gujarat and besides locals, tourists from these states are also coming to the place, he says. “We ensure that they follow all protection norms. We sanitise the monuments before closing them,” Prasant says.

The footfalls at Bhimbetka, Bhojpur and Aadamgarh are down by 80%. Earlier, around 150 to 250 tourists used to visit these places every day but now the numbers have fallen to 25 to 50.

Against 700 earlier, only around 200 tourists are visiting Sanchi every day. The average footfall in Khajuraho before COVID -19 was 200 but now it is 60 to 70.

ASI Bhopal Circle, Superintending Archaeologist Piyush Bhatt says that the tourists are coming but their numbers are down. On an average, it is about 40 per cent of the earlier figures, he said.

Foreign tourists can’t come as international flights are suspended. Even domestic tourists are mostly from the places around. Those from distant towns can’t come because regular trains are not running and only a few flights are available. Even interstate buses are not running, he says. And then, of course, there is the fear of contracting the disease.

Madhya Pradesh will now have two ASI circles instead of one. Earlier the Bhopal circle of the ASI looked after the protected monuments in the entire state. Now, it has been decided to establish a new circle office at Jabalpur. The new circle will have jurisdiction over districts like Anuppur, Balaghat, Chhatarpur, Chhindwara, Damoh, Dindori, Jabalpur, Katni, Mandla, Panna, Rewa, Sagar, Satna, Seoni, Shahdol, Sidhi, Tikamgarh, Narsingpur, Umaria, Singrauli and Niwari. The new office will become functional within the next two months.

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Free Press Journal