NEW DELHI: A country that believes in ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’, India has always been one of the top destinations, as far as religious tourism is concerned. Not just the domestic tourists, millions of foreigners also throng the various temples to seek solace. And now, in a bid to give religious tourism a nationalist push, Narendra Modi Government is putting its money on developing infrastructure around the religious tourism centres.
With the emphasis on boosting the tourism sector to help the economy, the Ministry of Tourism (MoT) is leaving no stone unturned to create better facilities at the new tourism circuits across the country. For that, the government is even ready to increase the funding at different tourism centres. In the last one year, the government had sanctioned nearly Rs 400 crore for various tourism circuits, while efforts are on to get more states to submit their proposals. The initial beneficiaries in the last one year have been cities known for their Hindu and Buddhist heritage.
Under the newly launched PRASAD scheme (National Mission on Pilgrimage Rejuvenation And Spiritual Augmentation Drive), the MoT sanctioned funds for religious towns of Gaya, Puri and Mathura. In the current financial year, Rs 600 crore has been allocated for Swadesh Darshan, while Rs 100 crore has been granted for PRASAD scheme. Under this, the infrastructural development of Puri circuit will include Jagannath Dham, Ramachandi, Prachi River front and Dhauli, with Rs 50 crore sanctioned for the same.
Mathura, the birthplace of Lord Krishna, has recently been sanctioned Rs 24 crore for developing Mathura-Virandavan as mega tourist circuit (Rs 14.93 crore) and setting up of a tourist facilitation centre in Mathura (Rs 9.35 crore).
Under PRASAD, initially 12 cities--Ajmer, Amritsar, Amravati, Dwarka, Gaya, Kedarnath, Kamakhaya, Kanchipuram, Mathura, Puri, Varanasi and Velankanni--have been identified. At all these places, the government would develop facilities to attract more tourists.
Gaya, that attracts both Hindu and Buddhist pilgrims, received funds under two different schemes of the ministry. Under the Swadesh Darshan scheme, the city has been sanctioned Rs 33 crore for setting up a cultural centre, which would be part of the Buddhist circuit.
Another Rs 4.29 crore has been sanctioned in 2014-15 for developing basic facilities at ancient Vinshupad Temple.
Interestingly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah would address the election rally in Gaya on Sunday as the saffron party is focused on sweeping the upcoming Bihar polls.