BHUBANESWAR: Odisha was ignored once again when Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced to develop five archaeological sites in the country as iconic sites with on-site museum while presenting the annual Budget 2020-21 on Saturday.
Last year not a single place of tourist attraction from the State was selected when the Centre had released a list of 17 sites to be developed as iconic tourist destinations evoking strong resentment from the Government.
The recent visit of Union Minister for Tourism and Culture Prahlad Singh Patel to Konark had raised hopes that at least one site from Odisha would be developed as iconic site but there was no mention of it in the Finance Minister’s speech.
The sites which have been declared to be developed into iconic sites are Rakhigarhi in Haryana, Hastinapur in Uttar Pradesh, Shivsagar in Assam, Dholavira in Gujarat and Aadichanallur in Tamil Nadu.
Four of the five sites are of pre-Christian era except Shivsagar of the medieval period. Though Odisha has some incredible sites like Dhauli and Khandagiri in Bhubaneswar, Lalitgiri, Ratnagiri and Udaygiri in Jajpur that date back to pre-Christian era, tragically those have been forgotten.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has expressed displeasure over exclusion of potential sites from Odisha in the heritage conservation plan of the Centre. Reacting sharply, he opined not only does the State has several sites that can be developed into iconic sites but also Odisha deserves a national tribal museum.
Odisha chapter of Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) has also termed omission of heritage sites in the Centre list as unfortunate.
State Convener of INTACH and former DG of Police AB Tripathy said there are so many archaeological sites, monuments, natural and ethnic sites having immense tourism potential which are being constantly neglected by the Centre. "The State Government should strongly demand before the Centre so that these sites can be developed which can help boost local economy," he said.
Heritage lovers, hoteliers and tour operators also blamed the Centre for ignoring the State as far as tourism promotion is concerned.
Lauding that development of old archaeological sites like Rakhigarhi, Hastinapur, Dholavira and Aadichanallur will help to brand India and match shoulder to shoulder with Egypt and Greece, heritage researcher Prasanta Padhi said it is ironical that Odisha finds no mention in the iconic list despite its richness. "At least one of the Buddhist sites could have been included to entice tourists from South East Asia and China," Padhi added.