Visitors oppose proposed toll hike to Sinhagad Fort
The proposal has enraged some local villagers and tourists, who alleged that the forest department, despite generating crores in revenues, has done little to upkeep and develop the fort and its surrounding forest region
The Forest Department is mulling increasing the Sinhagad Fort toll from ₹100 to ₹600 for four-wheelers and ₹250 from the existing ₹50 for two-wheelers. The proposal has enraged some local villagers and fort tourists, who alleged that the forest department, despite generating crores in revenues, has done little to upkeep and develop the fort and its surrounding forest region.
The regular visitors claimed that the forest department could not set up a single public toilet on the fort top despite earning exorbitant toll charges from the visitors during the past several years.
“The Forest Department is garnering a huge chunk of revenue by charging ₹50 for two and ₹100 for four-wheelers but there is no proper audit of the revenue. A significant portion of that amount must be spent towards increasing the aesthetic beauty, creating drinking water facilities, adding elegance to the existing infrastructure and several other maintenance aspects can be looked into but the forest department is lead bothered and only wants revenue with no responsibility towards the visitors. The Forest Department has to be made accountable and they must start uploading the revenue-earning data on the website for citizen awareness,” said activist Ram Shelke.
Earlier, the Forest Department had started the electric bus (e-bus) service at Sinhagad Fort, which closed down within 15 days of being introduced in May 2022, the Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Limited (PMPML) later decided to resume the service in view of Punekars flocking to the fort during the monsoon season.
Between May 2 and 16, 2022, a total of 47,000 passengers travelled by e-bus, and a revenue of ₹22 lakhs was generated. The e-buses were nine metres long and had a seating capacity of 32. From May 17, 2022, however, the e-bus service was closed down in the Ghat section due to safety issues while private vehicles were allowed to go to the top of Sinhagad Fort.
According to the new arrangements being made, the tourist must park their vehicles in Donje village where they will have to shell out ₹100 for parking and in addition to that will have to pay ₹100 for a jeep ride from the village to the fort, a move which has been condemned by the visitors.
Mahesh Pawale, head of a prominent social organisation said, “We will never allow exploitation of the fort lovers for commercial gain by vested interests and if need be, a mass agitation will be launched to force the forest department to rescind the decision,” he said.
Mahadev Mohite, deputy conservator of forests said, “The village committee is looking into the proposal of introducing Safari jeeps to ferry tourists and visitors to the fort wherein the four-wheelers will remain parked in the village which will be taken up in those special vehicles. The tourists will have to pay ₹80 for each such ride.”
Several meetings have taken place and some more deliberations are underway before it is finalised. The process of entry fee hike will be taken on a gradual basis once all agree to the decision, Mohite added.