BHUBANESWAR: The Odisha Government has urged the Tourism Ministry to include its Buddhist sites in Swadesh Darshan scheme.
In a letter to Union Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma on Tuesday, Chief Secretary Gokul Chandra Pati has sought inclusion of Odisha’s ‘Diamond Triangle’ of Buddhist sites (Ratnagiri, Udayagiri, and Lalitagiri) in the newly-floated scheme.
In the last fiscal, the Union Government launched two schemes - Swadesh Darshan and National Mission on Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual Augmentation Drive (PRASAD).
Under `600-crore Swadesh Darshan scheme, five circuits - Buddhist, Himalayan, Coastal, Krishna and Northeast - have been identified to be developed to attract national and international tourists. Besides, 12 cities including Puri have been identified under PRASAD.
Sources said the Union Tourism Ministry has already identified Bodh Gaya, Rajgir and Vaishali in Bihar and Kapilavastu, Sarnath, Sravasti and Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh under the Buddhist circuit of Swadesh Darshan. Even though the Diamond Triangle in Odisha has immense potential to draw domestic and international travellers, the Union Ministry is yet to shift its focus towards it due to lack of tourist infrastructure at these sites. Tourism Department sources said funds from Swadesh Darshan can help in developing tourism amenities at these sites.
On the other hand, the Union Tourism Minister had earlier informed the Lok Sabha that Odisha coast will benefit from the coastal circuit component of Swadesh Darshan under which plans are being drawn to introduce cruise vessels for tourists to travel from one coastal destination to another.
The State’s 480-km coastline includes beaches of Talsari, Chandipur, Dhamara, Paradip, Hukitola, Chandrabhaga, Astaranga, Gopalpur and Puri. Currently, Odisha has infrastructure to anchor cruise vessels at Gopalpur-on-Sea and Dhamara, but such facilities need to be developed at Puri, Talsari and other places.