The plan to restore and develop major forts and Buddhist sites in Maharashtra received a major boost on Friday when the state government and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) decided to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the project. The MoU will help speed up the much-delayed project.
A state delegation led by chief minister Prithviraj Chavan met Union cultural minister Kumari Shelja on Friday, seeking better coordination with the ASI to cut down delays in the project.
Through the project, the state will link all major forts within a 100 to 120-km radius through circuits. The state has identified four circuits, linking four to five forts each, in the Western Ghats and Konkan. The plan also includes a Buddhism circuit to link major Buddhist tourist destinations such as caves and stupas.
The project will connect the forts so that trekkers can access one from the other. With this plan, these key tourist attractions could receive major facelifts. These will include developing amenities such as restaurants, parking areas and the like for tourists at the base of the circuit.
“The MoU will be signed for developing basic amenities such as a tourism centre, toilet blocks, drinking water facilities and strengthening of structures at several forts, such as Raigad, Shivneri, Lohagad, Torna, Sinhagad and rajmachi forts. A similar MoU will be signed for the Buddhist circuit,” said additional chief secretary, tourism department, Anand Kulkarni, who was present at the meeting. The MoU for the fort circuit is likely to be signed within a month.
The state government had budgeted Rs 50 crore for developing the fort circuits, and Rs70 crore for the Buddhism circuit. However, the plan, which aims to enhance the state’s tourism potential, has seen little progress so far.
One of the reasons for the delay is that nearly 70% of the monuments in Maharashtra come under the ASI’s purview and any repair or reconstruction requires the ASI’s nod. With the MoU, the ASI and the state will be partners in the upgradation plan, which will speed things up.
The meeting also discussed the plan to develop ramps, signages and easy access to toilets, at the Ajanta and Ellora caves. The plan is being implemented by the ASI and officials said they would do it within a month.