The Maharashtra state government has decided to go ahead with leasing out 22 forts to private players amid opposition from the heritage experts. Officials stated that these forts have been identified as Class 2 category with lesser historical significance, and that their monetisation will be done by leasing out properties of the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) for 30 to 60 years.
As per the reports, the state cabinet recently cleared a new tourism policy that allows privatisation of MTDC resorts, other protected monuments, and open land, which are not under the control of the Archaeological Survey of India.
Reportedly, as per the said policy, there are around 350 properties that fall under MTDC, and each will be given on a one-time premium charged or revenue-sharing formula. As per the tourism department officials, a model of similar kind is followed in places in Rajasthan and Goa, further adding that such a model would help develop the properties better and also create a tourist ecosystem in the vicinity. As per the latest reports, some of the forts that are being planned to be leased out during the first phase are―Nagardhan, Kandhar, Nandur, Laling, Korigad, Salher, Ghodbunder, and Parola, all of which are under the state’s control. Also, the lease terms state that the forts will be provided with air connectivity, no water body to be disturbed, no private structure to be built, and no environmental damage to be caused.
The private players that will be adopting the properties will, however, be allowed to develop the forts and the infrastructure surrounding them. They can also set up facilities such as sound and light shows, and also provide tent facilities. As per government sources, the decision on whether liquor will be allowed is yet to be taken.