For the thousands of visitors who throng the historic town of Mahabalipuram, a particular, narrow, 8-ft wide lane adjacent to the shore temple is the most commonly used path by the tourists to access the beach. However, with shops encroaching a sizeable portion of the road, visitors find it difficult to traverse through the road.
During the Indo-China summit last year, the shops were evacuated as per the instructions of Chief Secretary K Shanmugam. While he ordered for the widening of the road and to provide an alternative place for the hawkers, to the revenue department, no steps were initiated by the concerned authorities. Instead, the shops have come back, making it inconvenient for the visitors.
On the condition of anonymity, residents told that the lane is being maintained by the Tourism Development Corporation. Though the local administration is said to have received funds to develop the town to make it more tourist-friendly, nothing has changed on the ground.
“During the weekends, Mahabalipuram witnesses a huge crowd and the numbers have gone up after the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit. They find it difficult to enter and exit through the narrow lane as it gets congested. Miscreants use this as an opportunity and indulge in offences and misbehave with women tourists,” said Ramachandran, a resident of the town. The Archaeology department collects Rs 40 from domestic tourists and Rs 500 from foreigners to visit all the monuments in the town, yet, they are forced to use the narrow lane to visit the beach. If all the departments come together, they can find a solution for the persistent problem in no time, he said.
Another major drawback of the narrow lane is the difficulty to rush the drowning victims to the hospital. “Since the ambulance cannot enter the lane, the victims have to be carried for over 500 metres to the main road and in the process, many lives could not be saved. At least 300 lives have been lost in the same manner,” said a social worker from Mahabalipuram.
However, officials at the Tourism department were not available for their comment.