BHUBANESWAR: Even as Odisha’s hinterlands are replete with tourism products - particularly handicraft, textiles and handloom - that have potential to draw tourists, the State has failed to find place in rural scheme of Union Tourism Ministry. In fact, no rural tourism project has been sanctioned for Odisha since 2007.
The State has not been able to tap the growing rural tourism market where increasing number of independent travellers are looking for experiential holidays, including rustic village experience, a model adopted by neighbouring States like Chhattisgarh, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh.
This year, the Ministry has sanctioned Rs 131.05 lakh for development of rural tourism sites in Arunachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Uttarakhand, Punjab and Tripura. Last year, the State Tourism Department had sought inclusion of Sadeibareni in Dhenkanal and Dasia Bauri Pitha in Puri in the rural tourism component, but the Ministry did not approve it, sources said. Sadeibareni village, five kms from Saptasajya in Dhenkanal, is well-known for its Dokra craft while Dasia Bauri Pitha at Baliagaon village near NH-203, is famous as the birthplace of legendary devotee of Lord Jagannath, Bhakta Dasia.
The rural tourism scheme has two components - infrastructure and skill development of artisans. It envisages construction of open air auditoriums, tourist amenities, craft demonstration and sale centres on the infrastructure front apart from training artisans and honing their skills.
Under this, a Central assistance of Rs 50 lakh for infrastructure development and Rs 20 lakh for capacity building is provided to the State Government concerned for each site identified by it. The primary objective is to showcase rural life, art and craft, culture, heritage, handloom, textiles and natural beauty.
The last time the Ministry sanctioned rural tourism project for Odisha was in 2007. It had then identified eight villages where rural tourism projects were to be developed by the respective district administrations. Those are Raghurajpur and Pipili in Puri, Khiching in Mayurbhanj, Barpali in Bargarh, Hirapur in Khurda, Padmanavpur in Ganjam, Deulajhari in Angul and Konark Natya Mandap.
Ironically, work on some of the projects has been left midway as they do not have adequate communication facilities and tourist inflow. The only successful project was Raghurajpur. Sources said as the previous projects are going slow, no new ones are being sanctioned for the State.
Tourism Minister Ashok Panda said the Centre has launched Swadesh Darshan for integrated development of tourist circuits around specific theme including rural tourism circuit. “We are studying the new areas where rural tourism projects can be developed and proposals will be submitted to the Ministry for inclusion of Odisha under rural tourism circuit under Swadesh Darshan,” he said.