June 13, 2021 11:06:22 pm
TOURISTS THRONGED the city’s weekend getaway destination Matheran on Sunday only to be turned back, sparking a protest by local residents who depend on tourism for their livelihood.
The first weekend since the state’s five-level unlockdown plan saw many from Mumbai, Pune and Thane visiting the hill station. Matheran, which has not seen any Covid-19 cases for a while, falls in Raigad district which is under ‘Level 4’ and continues to have several restrictions.
“The issue has been flagged before the government. A decision is expected soon by the state government regarding reopening tourist destinations. Raigad district is under Level 4 due to the positivity rate but we are trying to give some relaxation to Matheran considering the dependence of the local population on tourism, the number of cases and the high rate of vaccination. The administration is positive about it,” said Raigad District Collector Nidhi Choudhary.
On Sunday, many tourists who arrived early in the morning were allowed by the local administration and police to cross the Ghat. However, as the number of tourists and trains started increasing, the administration stopped them at the foot of the Ghat and banned them from going to Matheran. The people of Matheran then took to the streets, with the police having to intervene to disperse the crowd and control the situation.
Locals residents said that Matheran has not had a single Covid-19 case in recent times and even 95 per cent of the locals have been vaccinated. The locals claim that there are hardly any patients in the village and now the tourists should be allowed.
“Tourism is the only source of livelihood here and more than 50,000 people are dependent on it. The government has not helped for the last one-and-a-half years and people are in financial crisis. Today (on Sunday) at least 1,500-2,000 tourists came to Matheran from different parts of the state. However, they were not allowed… this is when most parts of Mumbai and its neighbouring cities are open along with other cities in the state,” said Sunil Shinde, a local resident and secretary of the Shramik Rickshaw Sanstha.
Pradip Ghavre, another local resident, said, “The people living in this village are under tremendous financial crisis and there is no other source of income for them, hence we request the government to allow the tourists and give us some relaxation,”
“We came from Pune thinking that there is no need for E-pass and the cities have been opened… however, we were not allowed to enter and were asked to go back,” said Raju Pawar, a student.
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