Shivaji forts will not be rented out

Mumbai: The State government's 'heritage tourism' policy -- which will allow the use of historical forts that are not on the ASI list of protected monuments -- has come under fire.

Opposition parties are terming this move to rent out forts for heritage hotels and wedding venues as an insult to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and his followers. Clearly on the defensive, the state government made it clear on Friday that no forts built by Shivaji Maharaj or those connected with Maratha history will be rented out.

Earlier, the leader of the opposition in the assembly, Vijay Wadettiwar, slammed the government for the commercialisation of pride and history of the state. Amol Kolhe, popular for portraying Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and Sambhaji Maharaj on screen, has dubbed the state government the 'new Aurangazeb.'

“Aurangzeb tried to conquer the forts of Shivaji Maharaj but could not do so in Maharaj’s life time. What Aurangzeb could not do, the Maharashtra government has accomplished. This is an insult to all those who fought for these forts and the Maratha kingdom,” Kolhe said.

Also condemning the move, Leader of Opposition in the legislative council Dhananjay Munde said renting out forts for use as heritage hotels and wedding venues is an insult to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and his followers.

"This capitalist government is planning to give away Chhatrapati Shivaji's forts for a pittance," Leader of Opposition in the legislative council Dhananjay Munde said, slamming the move. He added that these forts may have become old but history was very much alive in them.

"Even if you can't protect the history and legacy of Shivaji Maharaj, lakhs of his followers like us are still around to look after them. The government shouldn't play with emotions of Shivbhakts (devotees of Shivaji)," he said.

Munde said the Modi government had leased out the historical Red Fort and now the state government was following suit. Maharashtra Navnirman Sena leader Anil Shidore said the government shouldn't commercialise the state's pride and history, which is a treasured legacy.

Not renting out any Shivaji forts: Put in the pillory by the opposition, Secretary of Toursim Vinita Singhal made it clear that no forts in the state will be rented or leased out for weddings or events.

“The government has decided to develop Category 2 forts as historical sites," she said. There is no question of leasing/renting these for weddings and other events. There are about 350 forts in Maharashtra.

Of these, more than 300 forts are unprotected and fall in the Class 2 category. The development of these Category 2 forts will give impetus to the local economy,” 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," she said.

Singhal said there are many structures which are not in the protected list and which are frequented by revellers 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 said.

As for reports that the forts will also be used as wedding venues and heritage hotels, Singhal said the policy also makes it clear that the local flora and fauna will be protected and no permanent construction in the forts would be allowed. "Social events which fit into the fabric of Maharashtra's political life will be allowed," she said.

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