Lonavala imposes curbs on tourists, Section 144 at dams and attractions

Except for essential shops, which will be open until 4 pm, all other shops will remain closed on weekends.

After days of hosting scores of tourists, the Lonavala Municipal Council (LMC) has decided to strictly implement a weekend lockdown in the hill station area from Saturday. The district collectorate has also ordered the imposition of Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code — banning the assembly of five or more people — in a one-kilometre radius of dams and tourist spots.

“To control the spread of Covid-19 in Lonavala, we have decided to implement a strict lockdown on weekends from today,” LMC CEO Somnath Jadhav told The Indian Express.

The decision to implement the lockdown was taken at a meeting on Friday. LMC president Surekha Jadhav, CEO Jadhav, senior police inspector Dilip Pawar, deputy CEO Bhavwan Khade and corporators Shridhar Pujari, Bharat Harpude, Balasaheb Jadhav and Dilip Gupta, and president of Lonavala Traders Association, among others, were present at the meeting.

“Lonavala is witnessing a huge rush of tourists, especially on weekends. If Lonavala is to avoid becoming a Covid hotspot, we have to strictly implement the weekend lockdown,” said CEO Jadhav.

Except for essential shops, CEO Jadhav said, all other shops will remain closed on weekends. “Even on weekdays, shops will remain open only till 4 pm. Anyone found violating the orders will face criminal complaints,” he added.

The decision to impose Section 144 only within a one-kilometre radius of tourists spots has, however, drawn flak from activists, who say it will not stop tourists from flocking to the hill station area. “If people are prevented only within one kilometre, they will still visit Lonavala and surrounding areas. Thousands of tourists from Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad, Maval, Mulshi, Khed and Mumbai visit Lonavala during monsoon weekends. The whole of Lonavala should have been declared out of bounds for tourists during weekends… this is a half-hearted measure,” an activist said.

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When approached for comments, District Collector Rajesh Deshmukh said, “Spots, where overcrowding happens, will remain out of bounds. Tourists will be stopped at a distance of one kilometre from dams and various points. This week, we will observe the situation, and if tourists are still found in big numbers, we will review it.”

Jadhav said, “Not all people coming to Lonavala can be stopped. The government has not given any such orders. We are already seeing that since this morning, there is hardly any presence of tourists in Lonavala. We are sure the one-kilometre radius will serve the purpose.”

Jadhav said norms at four dams, including the most popular Bhushi dam and sunset point, will be implemented strictly.

The collectorate said besides Lonavala, Section 144 has been imposed at all tourists destinations as well as in forts areas across the Pune district. The maximum rush is seen at Sinhagad fort and Shivneri during the weekends. The collectorate has asked the police to file FIRs under IPC and Disaster Management Act if anyone is found violating the orders.

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