Gujarat gearing up to hardsell ‘city of saints’ at global investors summit

The project, which is expected to come up on 539 acres at Mahor village in Sabarkantha district of north Gujarat.

Written by Avinash Nair | Ahmedabad | Published:October 31, 2016 1:15 am

THE GUJARAT government is planning to showcase a “Sant Nagari” or the city of saints —- a Rs 575-crore project conceived by Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he was at the helm in the state —- to foreign investors at the Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors’ Summit from January 10-13, 2017.

The project, which is expected to come up on 539 acres at Mahor village in Sabarkantha district of north Gujarat, will bring together the teachings of Gautam Buddha, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Guru Gobind Singh, Sant Kabir and Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti under one roof.

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Expected to be developed in three phases, the project, which aims to provide a “neutral space for inter-religious dialogue”, is one of several that the state government will showcase during the summit, which the Prime Minister is expected to attend.

“The project will be executed with help from the Centre. At present, all the planning for the project is complete. We have also taken possession of around 172 hectares of land from the revenue department, which is just a couple of kilometers away from the Dharoi dam,” said S J Haider, principal secretary, tourism, devasthan management and pilgrimage, Gujarat.

During the summit, the state government is planning to scout for a private investor who can form a Special Purpose Vehicle with a government body, such as the Gujarat Pavitra Yatradham Vikas Board (GPYVB), to develop facilities at the proposed site.

According to government sources, this project aims to realise Modi’s dream of bringing together the life and teachings of 2,300 saints from across the nation and tap the potential for pilgrimage tourism in Gujarat. Modi had
first spoken about the project during a public event in 2011.

Sant Nagari is expected to have seven zones or pavilions, including one reserved for saints from Gujarat and another for those from the Northeast. Each zone will have segments representing the life and teachings of various saints from that region. These zones will also have meditation and prayer halls, residential buildings, a knowledge centre and other common infrastructure, including public utilities.

Once complete, officials said, the project will attract about 50 lakh tourists annually. In 2014-15, about 16 major spiritual destinations in Gujarat attracted 4.97 crore tourists, of which 92 lakh were overnight tourists staying in regular accommodation.

The state government plans to built this city as “as a major resource centre for teachers and students of theology and as a place that will offer a safe space where people from diverse backgrounds can meet, talk and listen to each other”, said officials.