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Encroachment By Dargah, Mining By Cement Firms: How Historical Chittorgarh Fort Facing Threat To Existence

Rajasthan is known for its forts and it attracts lakhs of tourists every year due to this. Among them is the historical city of Chittorgarh and its fort that attracts many tourists even today. However, it facing an existential threat due to neglect. Ahead of the voting for the Rajasthan election 2023, our reporter Ankur Tyagi uncovered the factors affecting Chittorgarh’s pride.

Chittorgarh’s most significant and ancient identity is its fort, standing tall for centuries, witnessing countless invasions and the historical practice of ‘jauhar’ by women within its walls. However, the vicinity surrounding this fort now buzzes with tourism. Over time, this historic fort has fallen victim to government negligence. According to locals, a liquor shop was established near the fort’s entrance, raising questions about the intent behind such a move in the heart of a place steeped in history.

Upon our visit inside the fort, we encountered Kuldeep, who works as a guide and has been intimately familiar with every nook and cranny of this fort for a decade. Kuldeep pointed out two entrances to the fort – the Ram Pol, frequented by tourists, leading to traffic snarls during peak seasons, and the Suraj Pol, a gate locals have long demanded to be opened but authorities have consistently overlooked.

The fort is gradually succumbing to encroachments. Kuldeep guided us to an elevated area where an unauthorized encroachment by a Dargah is slowly encircling the lower sections of the fort and is gradually expanding over the last 15 to 20 years using thick clusters of trees. Both the Forest Department and local leaders have given protection to the encroachments, failing to save the fort.

Within this fort lies a 600-year-old Vijay Stambh (Victory Tower), now under threat due to nearby cement companies conducting mining activities through blasting, causing visible cracks on this World Heritage stambh. Another issue tarnishing the fort’s historical significance is the consumption of alcohol in specific sections soon after dusk, posing a threat to the safety of tourists who may stumble upon scattered liquor bottles within the fort’s interior.

Families have resided within this fort for generations, and due to its World Heritage status, no construction work is permitted. However, these houses are deteriorating, risking collapse during adverse weather, yet the administration neglects their maintenance, forcing many to risk their lives by continuing to inhabit these deteriorating structures.

The tourism infrastructure linked to the fort, which sustains a considerable portion of the city’s population through employment, lacks adequate development. The absence of decent hotels and other facilities dissuades tourists, ultimately failing to benefit the local economy. The neglect of this historical gem not only endangers its integrity but also jeopardizes the potential economic growth of the area.

Another issue is unemployment. In Chittorgarh, there are several large cement factories, approximately seven to eight in number. The biggest challenge faced by the locals in this area is the lack of employment opportunities for them within these factories. Despite having encountered numerous individuals with technical qualifications like MBAs, they were not offered jobs in these factories, while people from outside the region were employed. Locals attribute the primary cause of unemployment in Chittorgarh to the area’s political leaders. They claim that while these leaders manage multimillion contracts with these cement factories, they don’t facilitate job placements for the unemployed locals. These factories contribute to air and water pollution in the area, yet the local people remain unemployed. According to many, they have applied to these companies multiple times and even attended interviews, but jobs were not provided. There is no proper skill development center in this area that could train local youth, enabling them to find employment within the locality. Many who have completed their MBA degrees are compelled to work in local financial companies because the significant cement companies have not provided them with employment opportunities here.

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