Shivaji’s birthplace far from becoming a tourist hotspot
On March 21, the Maharashtra government’s tourism and cultural affair department accorded “tourism status” to Junnar taluka, located 70 km from Pune. Famous as the birthplace of Shivaji, Junnar, with its seven forts, including Shivneri where Shivaji was born, is a popular destination among adventure enthusiasts.
The forts of Junnar, the trekking routes, pinnacles and caves are an attraction for adventure enthusiasts, while pilgrims are drawn to several ancient temples and important pilgrim places. Junnar also has several stone-carved monuments and inscriptions, while beautiful ghats, like Malshej, make a popular tourist spot during the monsoon.
Junnar taluka was once a prominent place during the Satavahana dynasties and Junnar and Paithan were major trading centres linked to ancient ports like, Kalyan, Shurparak, Dahanu, Bhayindar and Thane. Nane ghat and Darya ghat were the main trading routes and the rulers provided ample protection to the traders by constructing a chain of forts adjacent to the route.
While this is the history of Junnar, the taluka clearly lacks basic amenities for tourists. As per the 2011 census, Junnar taluka had 85,864 households and a population of 3,99,302. To develop it as a tourism destination, the town will require good road connectivity and a number of hotels for a comfortable stay.
However, apart from announcing the town as a tourist destination, no work plan or project proposal has been published by the state tourism department.
“This is a half-done job. Now, the real work will begin. To develop the taluka as a tourist destination, we need a proper road network. No tourist place will get popular unless the connecting roads are in good condition. Secondly, at several places, we need to provide guides and facilities to the tourists,” says ex-army officer Ramesh Kharmale, who devoted his time and efforts for the promotion of Junnar taluka as a tourist destination. His attempt on social media was well received after which the Government took notice and decided to act upon it.
The GR (Government Resolution) issued by the tourism department in 2006, clearly says that to develop a tourist destination, certain norms should be followed. Therefore, it is expected that priority be given to creating adequate accommodation facilities, eateries, toilets and information centres.
Most importantly, Junnar taluka lacks approach roads and networks connecting all the tourists’ spots. Not just roads, but the wayside amenities also need to be planned while developing roads.
Strengthening the ‘Bed and Breakfast’ scheme will help create facilities for travellers at remote destinations, where hotel accommodation is not available, and will provide income source to the local people.
Creating information booths at nearby airports, railway stations, bus stations and important public places is also important to promote tourism. These booths should be on an interactive basis with links to the tourism portal and online booking.