1st Fort Conservation Workshop

Workshop Date

29th January 2006

Place

Maharashtra High School, Dadar

Timing

10 am to 5 pm

Some enthusiastic fort lovers gathered for Workshop on Fort Conservation on the 29th of January, 06 at the Maharashtra High School, Dadar.

The registration process was on from 10 am and the workshop started at around 11 am. Thirty-eight enthusiastic people had come for the workshop. Prasad Nikte explained the objective of the workshop in the beginning. The basic purpose was – to create a networking platform for all organisations / individuals that are active or are willing to do something in this field. The basic idea was

Ø To share the experience of these individuals / organisations

Ø To know the difficulties they had faced in doing this kind of work

Ø To know the future plans of various organisations

After the informal inauguration, all the participants introduced themselves and also specified the intentions for attending the workshop.

Before the start of presentations by various organisations, Suhas Joshi had stressed that it was going to be an informal, open discussion among the fort lovers.

Even though the number of people, who came for the workshop was less than expected, those who had come were quite interactive and hence the workshop went well. The flow continued with the series of presentations by different organisations.

The presentations threw some light on the fort conservation activities done by these people and also on the activities that they are planning.

A. 1st Session: Presentations by Organisations / Individuals

  1. Organisation: Girivihang – Yogesh Satam

Activities:
– Cleaning of the water tank at Aasava fort near Virar for two years

  1. Organisation: Nature Lovers – Rajendra Nehate

Activities

    1. Cleaning of water tanks, removal of shrubs near tanks, stop mud flow towards tank- at Tandulwadi for 13 years
    2. Efforts to stop further deterioration of Stone bricks (Chira) of Mahadev temple at Rajmachi
    3. Cleaning at Lohgad-Visapur road
    4. ‘Rajgad Pradakshina’ for 25 years – Cleaning of tanks at Rajgad, Padmavati Machi, ‘Pradakshina’ route and
    5. Giving information about the fort to trekkers
    6. Around 10 years back, cleaning at Gorakhgad before Diwali
    7. However he had mentioned that due to lack of experience plantation activity had failed. He also expressed concern about less participation of the activity
    8. ‘Raigad View’ exhibition with the help of Janseva Samiti, Vileparle

    Suggestions:

    * Study and continuous efforts required for plantation

    1. Organisation: 29028 Save Earth– Jayant Dofe

    Activities:

      1. Trekking with different groups / clubs
      2. Sudhagad, Prabalgad activity with Nisargmitra
      3. Usage of bucket and diesel pump for removal of water and soil
      4. Making an effort to ensure that Sahara’s Korigad project will be done in Maratha style and not in Portuguese style.
      5. Work for Maratha Museum

      Suggestions:

      * Tap source for financial help for fort conservation from industries and optimum utilization of the same

      * Need for a “movement” for Fort conservation

      1. Organisation: Girimitra Pratishthan – Satish Zanjad

      Activities:

        1. Medical camps in the villages at the base of the fort (Kulangvadi)
        2. Cleaning of water tank at Chanderi

        Suggestions:

        * Need to take substantial steps against encroachment on the forts

        1. Organisation: Shiv Pratishthan Sangli-Karhad – Jayvant Yadav

        Activities:

          1. Earnest efforts for conservation of historical monuments
          2. Spreading of awareness amongst people through information boards
          3. Action taken against encroachment at Kalyangad, Satara.
          4. ‘Fort model-making competition’ for children with an aim to create enthusiasm and spread awareness among them
          5. ‘Bhide Guruji Mohim’ – Organising speeches by veterans like Shri Ninad Bedekar and Shri Babasaheb Purandare to inspire individuals
          6. Action against encroachment on the forts:
            In his opinion first we should make an effort to convince the people not to misbehave on forts. If that doesn’t work then “other” means can be employed.

          1. Organisation: Nisargmitra – Shraddha Tisgaonkar

          Acitvities:

            1. Organisation active for more than 30 years
            2. Objective of organisation:

            Trekking (Padbhraman), Mountaineering (Giryarohan), Conservation of Nature (Nisarg Samvardhan) and Education about the nature (Nisarg Shikshan)

              1. Cleaning of water tank at Karnala, successful plantation with the help of Forest Dept.
              2. Constructed 50 Vanrai Bandhare
              3. Around 1988 carried out removal of soil on large scale at Sudhagad (Mahadarvaja) with the help of different trekking groups. Activity carried out for over three years.
              4. Worked to stop further deterioration of Bhorai temple at Sudhagad
              5. Water tank cleaning at Prabalgad- Kalavantin, Irshalgad, Mahuli Tandulwadi,.
              6. Cleaning at Mahuli, Manikgad forts
              7. Medical camps arranged on occasion of Independence day (15 August) and Republic day (26 January)
              8. Efforts to run school at Irshalgad

              Suggestions:

              * Make efforts to get the people with the family out of their home for trekking, visit the forts, educate them about conservation and then involve them in conservation activity – is the way followed by Nisargmitra

              1. Organisation: “Sahyadrilovers” yahoo group – Mandar Padhye

              Acitvities:

                1. Well planned activities for different seasons
                2. Guidance taken from experienced individuals
                3. Cleaning of Water Tank at the ‘Vaghjai Tep’ (on the way to Rajmachi from Kondivane)

                Executed in a planned way –

                Study of site, estimation of man-hours, labour, instruments required etc.
                Result of the well-planned and managed activity was successful completion of the activity in the estimated time

                Also constructed a small curb wall on the upper side of this tank to prevent flow of mud during rainy season.

                Suggestions:

                · Substantial help from localities is required and local people are also willing to help.

                1. Organisation: Durg Vikas – Vinayak Kale
                  His observations
                1. Need to look at forts not just as ‘Historical Monuments’ but also as ‘Nature’, with ‘Ecology’ point of view. Also the “Economics” angle needs to be considered (that is, creating employment etc).
                2. Deterioration of forts is due to lack of interest and enthusiasm among people besides the strategic destruction of forts by British people in the early 19th century.
                3. We should understand the mentality of the local people and guide them, encourage them for ecotourism.

                Suggestions:

                * Need to put down the guidelines for fort conservation

                * Embedding of “Fort Conservation Culture” amongst school / college students

                * Find ways to get proper help from the government without hesitation

                * All these activities need money and there is nothing wrong in raising funds through proper sources.

                * Better research, good future

                1. Organisation: Fort Capturers – Harshil Suvarnkar
                  Activities:
                1. Marking of route at Peb fort.
                2. Clean-up camp arranged at Tikona.
                3. Cleaning activity at Peb Fort.

                Suggestions:

                * Stop malicious/nasty activities at basic level

                * Warning signs at the fort with emotional messages

                * Creation of yahoo group as a common platform for the organisations active in the field of fort conservation

                1. Organisation: TCS – Deepa Kolwalkar

                Her observations with suggestions

                  1. Use of causal analysis to understand the attitude of people towards environment, trekking, conservation
                  2. Usage of logical factors in addition to emotional factor is important while creating awareness in public about Fort Conservation.
                  3. Need to explain people the details about the historical monuments/places
                  4. Create awareness among people about fort conservation

                  1. Organisation: Kshitiz Group– Prasad Nikte

                  Activities:

                  a. Project for preventing further deterioration at Sudhagad fort.

                    1. Giving social touch to conservation activity: e.g. Library at Pachchhapur (base village for Sudhagad)
                    2. Fort exploration to know more about the fort.
                    3. Plantation activity being carried out, but not much successful yet due to lack of expertise.

                    1. Organisation: Durg Mitra – Rajendra Vani
                      He had taken overall review of history of fort conservation activities.
                    1. “Rajmachi Prakalp” – considered as a milestone in fort conservation
                    2. Cleaning activity at Vasota, Mahuli, Peth, Tikona but failure in plantation activity
                    3. Finance, usage of local labor and Shramdan trek play important role in Fort conservation
                    4. Share the project information with the local residents and involve them in your work
                    5. Continuity in work and monitoring is crucial
                    6. Participation by NSS, NCC through treks will be helpful

                    Suggestions:

                    * Work out a proper project and then for funds approach NRIs, who are more interested in sponsoring fort conservation and social activities than mountaineering expeditions.
                    * Through media like TV and Internet, try to reach more and more people and encourage them to participate in fort conservation activity.

                    * Increase awareness about environment among people, try to create employment opportunities for local people. Then utilize their loyalty for activities like fort conservation

                    * Thumb rule: Continuous efforts play major role in this activity

                    * Need to work with few focused objectives

                    * As almost all of us lack proper knowledge in the field of fort architecture – do not try to change the structures

                    * Information banners / boards should be in harmony with the surroundings

                    1. Organisation: Young Zingaro – Hrishikesh Yadav

                    Activities:

                      1. Cleaning of water tanks at several times
                      2. “Gadjagran” at Rajgad in 1985

                      Suggestions:

                      * Continuous efforts were not possible due to lack of manpower

                      1. Organisation: Girivihar – Hrishikesh Yadav

                      Activities:

                        1. Camp for school kids at Sudhagad
                        2. Successful plantation at Sudhagad with the help of local people

                        B. 2nd Session (post lunch): Guidance Speeches by Seniors

                        Ø Shri Hrishikesh Yadav

                        (Shri Hrishikesh Yadav is a well-known name in mountaineering circle. Was the leader of first and successful Indian Civilian Expedition to Mt.Everest. Compiled “Sangatee Sahyadricha”, which is an excellent collection of information that can serve as guide to both, experienced trekkers and beginners. Presently chairman of the YHAI – Maharashtra State)

                        · MMRDA has lot of funds (finance), which is supposed to be utilized for development and conservation. Organisations should chalk out proper project and then approach MMRDA for utilization of that fund.

                        · The written communication with the government is important as the record of the letters received from different organizations is maintained. One needs to do continuous follow up to get the work done.

                        · Within the legal framework, the efforts should be made to get the funds from government for fort conservation besides activities like plantation and environment conservation.

                        · Increasing awareness about social responsibility among people through media will help in involving them in such activities.

                        · Even though each organisation has their own sphere of activities, they need to gather under common roof as a common body. This will facilitate pressurizing government at times to get the work done.

                        · Communication with government bodies by individual organisation with regard to activities like fort conservation may not be fruitful. Instead, all these organisations can work and communicate more effectively through a body like “Akhil Maharashtra Giryarohan Mahasangh”, which is an existing registered organization but is presently in a dormant state.

                        · It is the need of the hour that trekking organisations in Maharashtra should have a common, concrete, comprehensive website.

                        Ø Shri Dhananjay Madan

                        (Shri Madan has been active in the Sahyadris for past 30 years or so. Founder member of Nisargmitra, Panvel. A senior trekker and guide to many organizations. Vast experience in the area of social work as well as fort conservation. Recently honoured with “Girimitra Giribhraman “ award at the 4th Girimitra Sammelan in 2005)

                        o Always remember the equation
                        Fort = historical monument + forest + water

                        o Three things are crucial in this kind of activity

                        § Nature

                        § Life of local people

                        § Strong will power

                        o Help can be offered to the people staying at the base of the forts in terms of the old clothes, books for the kids – without spending additional/extra money

                        o Documentation is important besides the continuous efforts in the work. It was not done by many organisations that have done substantial work in the field.

                        o Innovation will also play an important role here. One needs to give different touch to treks, e.g. trek on full moon night or trek with a medical camp or some other activity in the base village, etc

                        o Study of flora and fauna in the fort area will give plenty of useful information about the plants, some could be with medicinal benefits. To organise medical camps at the base villages .

                        o Cleaning the water tanks at forts helps to maintain good hygiene among the villagers. In addition water will be available for plants.

                        o Efforts need to be made for conservation of historical monuments

                        o Cleaning of routes towards the forts, making the forts accessible to common man. This may sparkle the need for fort conservation among few of them looking at the deteriorated status and urge to stop it further.

                        o Try to overcome all difficulties and learn from the experience.

                        o Have a strong will power to make your dream come true.

                        Ø Shri Mukund Gondhalekar

                        (Retired from the RBI. Working at Rajmachi and nearby area since 1976. Great amount of experience in social work. “The Rajmachi Rural Aid & Development Programme”, of which Shri Gondhalekar is a founder member, received felicitation as “Girimitra Samajik Kary” at the 4th Girimitra Sammelan in 2005)

                        o ‘Rajmachi Gram Sahayya Yojana’ ( Rajmachi Rural Aid & Development Programme) was started in 1976 by few enthusiastic people mainly for the locals in the vicinity of Rajmachi fort.

                        o Various activities carried under this project:

                        § Help for education, health (medical camps) for the locals:

                        Results– earlier the villagers relied upon the local “bhagat”s, but now they do not hesitate to approach doctors for help in case of diseases. Earlier very few people used to send their kids to school, now each and every kid gets at least primary education.

                        § Employment opportunity to the locals by training for carpentry, construction work, etc and provision of food to trekkers by the locals.

                        Some of the local people got educated and found jobs…one of them as teacher.

                        § cleaning of historical remnants, plantation activity, etc.

                        § Earlier the people in this area used to get cheated by dalals. Now honey collected by local people is purchase by RRADP at good rate and sold to the people in city. Thus the local person gets a justified rate for the sale and the city people can get pure honey at very reasonable price.

                        o He stressed that substantial amount of work needs to be done on regular, continuous basis.

                        o Systematic planning and positive approach will be the key factors in the success of the fort conservation activity.

                        Ø Shri Sudhir Puranik

                        (Shri Puranik is Vice Principal at the J.N.Paliwala College, Pali. Professor of Physics. Active in Pali and nearby areas. Has established a good network of students by motivating them. Shri Puranik has written a booklet on Sudhagad.)

                        o While working at the villages near the forts, always try to figure out what the local people expect from the organisations.

                        o When NSS camps are held in the villages, “Gavki” – meeting of NSS people in the concerned village facilitates to specify the intention behind the NSS camp to the villagers and to know the expectations of the local people from the camp. Similar “Gavki”s will also be helpful in fort conservation work.

                        o About 25 years ago, means creating employment for local people used to be the priority for organisations working in this field. However, now the picture has changed considerably. Even in many remote areas, the local people are better off as compared to their situation about a quarter of century ago.

                        Hence today, more than any kind of monetary help or employment opportunity the villagers would love to get a share of the knowledge that is abundantly available to the city dwellers through schools, colleges, Internet etc. They will be happier, if we help educate their kids. (that is, not only school education, but also giving them knowledge about other things).

                        o Whenever doing any activity in the rural / remote areas, we should mix-up well with the local people, ‘as sugar would dissolve in milk’.

                        Ø Shri Rajendra Phadke


                        (Shri Phadke works as consultant and also teaches at Podar College. Was part of the first and successful Indian Civilian Expedition to Mt.Everest. One of the founder member of “Durg Vikas”, an organization active in the area of fort conservation and development).

                        It was more of question-answer session.

                        o Survey is of utmost importance before one starts the fort conservation activity.

                        o Focus on few forts will be more effective

                        .

                        o To overcome the lack of resources such as human resource, time, etc educate and encourage the local people to take care of the forts near their villages.

                        o Need to educate people about the forts, their historical importance and then encourage them to participate in fort conservation activity.

                        o Take out the fear about “how to deal with the government” related to archeological issues. Knowledge of “ASI Act” will be help in this matter.

                        o Archeology department is doing “restoration” and “renovation” work at Shivneri. But lack of skilled workers and less funds are the difficulties in their way.

                        • Common conclusions from the experience till date:

                          • Approach more and more people
                          • Involve local people in the activity
                          • Forts are a great source of motivation, but for that they first need to be conserved
                          • Need to educate people and spread awareness about fort conservation, environment conservation.

                          C. 3rd Session: Open Forum

                          • Following points were discussed. Different views on all these points came up during the session. (some of these points were mentioned in the earlier sessions).

                            • Involvement of organizations like Sahara group in this kind of activity

                              • Guidance and research to get good results for the plantation activity is required.

                                • Encourage more people – trekkers as well as common man to visit the forts.

                                  • Help from industries in the vicinity of the forts or near the base villages of the forts / in the same district

                                    • Need to arrive at proper way to handle encroachment

                                    • Should tourism be encouraged?

                                      • How to get support from government officials?

                                        • Usage of labor / arranging “Shramdan treks” for the activity?
                                          Usage of labor preferred in case of skilled work

                                        Due to time constraints, the open forum session was cut short. But overall the workshop was successful as it gave an opportunity for the fort lovers to interact with each other and to know the activities of different trekking groups.

                                        The following points were decided –

                                        · Presently this “Networking Platform” will remain as a ‘loosely held’ and informal group. All organizations to continue working in their own spheres as they have been doing. However, all should try to keep networked, so that everyone benefits from the knowledge and experience of others

                                        In future, as these organizations and individuals will keep on coming together, further thoughts in this direction will evolve.

                                        · Scope of this “Networking Platform” will be limited to the conservation of forts and related sites.

                                        · A Yahoo Group will be created and shall act as a discussion forum. This Yahoo Group will be specifically for the topics on fort conservation.

                                        · Such meetings / workshops will be held with a frequency of about once in three months. As this was the first workshop, the duration had to be of full day. However, the regular workshops will normally be of shorter duration (about three hours). Certain topics will be decided in advance for the workshops and these topics will be discussed in detail during the workshop.

                                        Next workshop will take place in the month of April.

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