THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The inauguration of Sree Narayana Guru Pilgrim Circuit project at Sivagiri Mutt on Sunday witnessed a war of words between the state government and the Centre.
Devaswom and Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran said the pilgrim circuit project was mooted by the state government and that if the Centre bypasses the state’s projects, the Centre-State relations will be affected. He also criticised the saints of Sivagiri mutt, saying that their ‘narrow-minded politics’ is not good for the Mutt and its future.
Union Minister of State(MoS) for Tourism Alphons J Kannanthanam, who inaugurated the function, and Swami Saradananda of Sivagiri Mutt responded to the minister’s criticism. Kannanthanam said the pilgrim circuit project was handed over to ITDC for giving more exposure to the project. “The Centre only wants to associate with the state government. We have no other interests. Thushar Vellappally will oversee the project,”, Kannanthanam said.
According to Saradananda, the saints at the Mutt have no political leniency and that they don’t have any ulterior motives. Kannanthanam added that the Ministry of Tourism sanctioned seven projects in the state under the Swadesh Darshan and PRASHAD schemes for an approximate amount of Rs 550 crores. He said Kerala’s future lies in exploring the possibilities in the tourism sector.
Sree Narayana Dharma Sangham president Swami Vishudhananda presided. A Sampath MP, Richard Hay MP, V Joy MLA, SNDP Yogam vice -president Thushar Vellappally, ITDC chairperson Ravneet Kaur, ITDC Director Padmakumar, ITDC engineering wing vice-president Ravi Pandit and Varkala municipal chairperson Bindu Haridas attended the function.
The project was sanctioned in January 2019 for Rs 69.47 crores. The facilities being developed under the project include tourist facilitation centres, beautification and landscaping, meditation/yoga centre, public conveniences, battery-operated vehicles, drinking water facility, craft bazaar, bus shelters, audio video virtual reality show, multi-media show, wayside amenities, parking, CCTV and wi-fi.
Minister voices concern
Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran has written to Union MoS Alphons Kannanthanam, voicing concerns in this regard. “I have already made known my deep resentment at the Centre’s unilateral decision to appoint the ITDC as implementing agency for the Pilgrim Circuit Project. Under the circumstances, I again request you to avoid such unfortunate interventions which harm harmonious Central-State relationship,” he said.