Tourists on a weekend getaway have returned from Matheran; Local residents protest and demand relaxation of strict ‘level 4’ borders
Tourists flocked to Matheran, the city’s weekend destination, on Sunday before being turned away, sparking a protest from local residents who depend on tourism for their livelihood.
The first weekend since the state’s five-tier unlock plan, many residents of Mumbai, Pune and Thane visited the hill station. Matheran, who has not seen a case of Covid-19 for some time, falls in Raigad district which is below “level 4” and continues to have several restrictions.
âThe problem has been reported to the government. A decision is expected soon by the state government on the reopening of tourist destinations. Raigad district is below level 4 due to the positivity rate but we are trying to give Matheran some relaxation given the local population’s reliance on tourism, the number of cases and the high vaccination rate. The administration is positive about this, âsaid Nidhi Choudhary, district collector of Raigad.
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 to increase, the administration stopped them at the foot of the Ghat and prohibited them from going to Matheran. The inhabitants of Matheran then took to the streets, the police having to intervene to disperse the crowd and control the situation.
Local residents said Matheran had not had a single case of Covid-19 in recent times and that even 95% of residents had been vaccinated. Locals claim that there are hardly any patients in the village and now tourists should be allowed.
âTourism is the only source of livelihood here and more than 50,000 people depend on it. The government has not helped for a year and a half and people are in financial crisis. Today (Sunday) at least 1,500 to 2,000 tourists have come to Matheran from different parts of the state. However, they were not allowedâ¦ this is when most parts of Mumbai and its neighboring cities are open, as well as other cities in the state, âsaid Sunil Shinde, a local resident and secretary of Shramik Rickshaw Sanstha.
Pradip Ghavre, another local resident, said: âThe people of this village are in the throes of a serious financial crisis and there is no other source of income for them, which is why we are asking the government to ‘allow tourists and relax a bit’.
“We came from Pune believing that there was no need for E-pass and that the towns were opened … however, we were not allowed to enter and were asked to return student Raju Pawar said.