No ban on solo-visitors in Nandi Hills

No ban on solo-visitors in Nandi Hills

An unofficial board barring ‘single persons’ is responsible for all the confusion at spectacular weekend haunt

A path at Nandi Hills, 61 km from Bengaluru.

Reports said last month the Chikkaballapura district administration had barred the entry of solo travellers to Nandi Hills. No formal ban is in place, a special officer on duty at the tourist destination told Metrolife.

He admitted the authorities had placed restrictions, and some of those visiting alone were being scrutinised closely. Nandi Hills is one of the most popular weekend destinations for Bengalureans, especially bike riders and cyclists. The police are not sure how reports of a ban on solo visitors got around.

“We can’t stop solo visitors. Just the other day, we had a solo rider coming to Nandi Hills from Delhi, and I let him in,” says a senior police officer. He says reports about the ban misrepresent the situation: “How can we stop people indiscriminately?” he says. “All we do is keep a close watch.”

Pavan Kumar Reddy, software engineer and solo traveller, says tighter security at the danger spots. “This place is popular not just among Bengalureans but also among those from outside the city. Find spots that are unguarded—like it is done in Avalabetta—and make them safe,” he suggests.

Some of his friends ride in from Mumbai and they are under the impression they won’t be let in now. Girish Shet, the curator at Weekend on Wheels (WoW), says, “The reason why people travel solo is to find their space, and definitely, Nandi Hills, with good roads and pleasant weather,  is the best around the city.”

Solo riders are extra-cautious and Nandi Hills is known around the globe as one of the safest riding destinations, he says. In the 17 years he has been riding, he has never heard of such a ban.

“Everyone has a right to be alone. If the worry here is the increasing number of suicides, have a trained professional to talk to visitors and place cameras at suicide points,” he says.

Girish feels the authorities are shirking their duty by placing restrictions. Nanda Kumar, a bike enthusiast, says putting up fences or barricades can help curb suicides to some extent. The authorities say extensive barricading and fencing would ruin the aesthetics of the place.

Misleading board

A signboard at Nandi Hills is causing confusion. It says, ‘Single person not allowed’ in English and is followed by ‘No smoking and drinking’ in Kannada. Superintendent of Police Karthik Reddy says the horticulture department has put up the board and should remove it. “It is everyone’s democratic right to enter a public place,” he told Metrolife. 

Cops not barring solo visitors 

Nandi Hills comes under a police outpost at the foot of the hills. A senior police officer, who has been on duty at the station for a year and four months, has seen two suicides and an accidental death during his tenure. This can’t justify a blanket ban on solo visitors, he says. “We keep a close watch on visitors though. If we find young boys, especially college students, wandering suspiciously, we question them and verify their purpose of visit,” he says.
The staff at the ticket counter also keeps an eye out for visitors who look disturbed. If they suspect any solo visitor is out to commit suicide, they quickly inform the police. 

What happens at the gates 

Solo travellers are stopped at the gate and ticket collectors analyse them to see if they are suicide-prone, according to the authorities at Nandi Hills. Special officer Ramesh says, “Solo travellers are stopped at the gate, and officers check their ID cards and analyse their mental state by talking to them. We are experienced enough to understand what their intentions are.”

If a visitor looks disturbed, a home guard escorts him out to a safe place, he says. “We have taken this initiative only in the interest of people’s safety,” says Ramesh. The department is now planning to install barricades in the dangerous points to stop further accidents, he says.

2 suicides (at Nandi Hills since June 2017)

(With inputs from Bellie Thomas)

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