LUCKNOW: On the lines of the statues of Sardar Patel in Gujarat and Shivaji Maharaj in Maharashtra, the Uttar Pradesh government has proposed to install a 100-metre tall statue of Lord Rama on the banks of the Saryu river in Ayodhya.
The project would be a part of Ayodhya’s redevelopment plan, which has unfolded ahead of Diwali Mahotsava in the temple town.
The proposed Rama statue would be the biggest attraction of the state tourism department’s Ayodhya redevelopment plan called Navya Ayodhya. Director general, UP Tourism, Awanish Awasthi, who outlined the proposal, made a presentation before governor Ram Naik recently.
“Things are yet to be finalised,” he said, adding, “Several modifications may take place. For instance, besides the statue of Lord Rama, more statues like those of Sita may also come up.” Awasthi said the redevelopment plan was ‘only a concept proposal’. Moreover, the approval of the National Green Tribunal would be needed before going ahead with the proposal.
Right after assuming charge, the state government led by CM Yogi Adityanath has been giving a push to religious tourism. Working in tandem with the Centre, the statue would come up as part of Navya Ayodhya project worth Rs 380 crore. It will be the face of religious tourism in the state and aims at making Ayodhya the nerve centre of cultural ethos for an authentic and unique tourist experience.
The Navya Ayodhya project also includes a Ram Katha gallery on the banks of the river, a multi-purpose auditorium in the Digambar Akhara premises and various public utility services. For this integrated development of Ayodhya, the state government had sent a detailed project report (DPR) of Rs 195.89 crore to the Tourism Ministry at the Centre and the ministry has so far allocated Rs 135 crore crore to the state.
Five main activities have been planned for this. The first one aims at the launch of a regeneration programme to promote a clean, green and walkable city while the second is to create a tourism economy comprising amenities and means like education so that jobs are created.
The third task planned includes making Ayodhya a tourist friendly city which would include development in terms of hotels, connectivity, language friendliness, safety, walkability so that the visitors get to experience an authentic, immersive and living culture and a vibrant waterfront. The fourth purpose was to establish Ayodhya as a centre of culture with investments in exploration and demonstration of Indian history, culture, medicine and way of life. The final aim is to connect Ayodhya with the road, river and information network.
The proposed statue will be a part of the Saryu riverfront development project that includes many activities to beautify an 8-km-long stretch of the river.
While the Centre had already put Ayodhya on its development agenda by okaying Rs 250 crore for the Ramayan Circuit comprising the temple town, this proposal from the state government has come at a time when hardline Hindu groups and some BJP leaders are pushing for a temple to be built at the disputed Ram Janmabhoomi site, the title suit of which is pending in the Supreme Court.
Muslim thinkers find the proposal unconstitutional and claim that the Constitution does not allow use of taxpayers’ money for religious purposes, though the Hindu leaders justify it saying it was linked to the faith of the majority population of the country.
However, with the 2019 Lok Sabha elections just 18 months away, such a move may revive the Ram temple issue and give an unpredictable twist to electioneering in light of the BJP’s ‘Mission 80’ in UP.
Meanwhile, in a first in Adityanath will lead the Diwali celebrations in Ayodhya on October 18. He will be joined by Ram Naik, Union tourism minister K J Alphons and culture minister Mahesh Sharma. The other attractions on October 18 will include a Deepotsav programme where 1.71 lakh earthen lamps will be lit at Ram ki Paidi, about 2 km from the disputed site; a heritage walk through Ayodhya; a Shobha Yatra to showcase the arrival of Lord Ram to Ayodhya and a symbolic “rajyabhishek” (coronation).