In the nearly two months of the BJP-led government in Uttar Pradesh — it crossed 50 days last week and will complete two months this week — it has made a number of decisions relating to religion, from better facilities during festivals to development of religious sites and assistance for pilgrims.
The government describes these as part of its development agenda rather than connect them with religion. “The only target of our government is development,” said Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya, also BJP state president, in reply to a question. “Others could associate it with Hindutva but development is the only goal of the government.”
Two days after it was sworn in, the government announced 24-hour power supply to all shaktipeeths (temples of goddess Durga) during Navaratri and to other religious places on Ram Navami. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath directed officials to ensure cleanliness, drinking water, power supply and adequate security at Vindhyachal, Devipatan, Shakumbhri Devi (Saharanpur) shaktipeeths and other temples in all districts during Navaratri, with quality facilities and proper security to pilgrims in Ayodhya. Since then, there has been a series of government statements on various decisions:
March 25: CM announces a hike in financial assistance for Kailash Mansarovar Yatra pilgrims, from Rs 50,000 to Rs 1 lakh, and development of a Kailash Mansarovar Bhawan.
April 4: Yogi asks PWD for a detailed project report for a two-lane road on Varanasi’s Panchkosi Marg. The same day, he meets Union Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma and discusses a Ramayana Museum in Ayodhya; Sharma later says the Centre was ready to release Rs 154 crore but alleges the project got stuck during the previous regime.
April 8: The CM directs the transport department for a work plan to upgrade bus stations on the religious circuit of Varanasi, Faizabad, Ayodhya, Naimisharanya, Chitrakoot, Vindhyachal, Kushinagar, Gola Gokarnath, Mathura, Gorakhpur, as well as Dewa Sharif.
April 18-20: Cabinet decides to name the civil terminal at the IAF airport in Gorakhpur after Mahayogi Gorakhnath, in whose memory the Gorakhnath temple was set up — Yogi is its head priest now. The civil terminal at IAF airport in Agra will be named after Deendayal Upadhyay. On April 20, the CM asks civil aviation officials to start the process for helicopter services connecting religious tourism sites such as Lucknow, Mathura, Vrindavan, Ayodhya, Prayag, Vindhyachal, Naimisharanya, Chitrakoot, Kushinagar and Varanasi. A pril 26: In a meeting of the religious affairs department, the CM asks officials to build boundary walls at religious places, develop approach roads including four-lane ones to prominent temples, and restart staging of Ramleela in Ayodhya and ensure proper execution of Raaslila in Mathura and Bhajan Sandhya in Chitrakoot. Staging of Ramleela in Ayodhya, halted for several years, restarted on May 3 on the premises of the Ayodhya Research Institute.
The CM also asks for completion of the Bhajan Sandhya Sthal in Ayodhya at a budget of Rs 14.77 crore by June 2018, completion of work on Bhajan Sandhya and Parikrama Stahl in Chitrakoot (sanctioned cost Rs 13.75 crore) on a priority, development of Braj Chaurasi Kosi Parikrama Path, and of public amenities like resthouses and water facilities on pilgrimage route. He asks officials to start e-puja and e-donation at Kashi Vishwadev temple in Varanasi, and online application system for Kailash Mansarovar Yatra and Sindhu Yatra.
May 9: Government decides to create two new municipal corporations — Ayodhya Nagar Nigam and Mathura-Vrindavan Nagar Nigam. The first, to be formed after merging the Faizabad and Ayodhya municipal boards, will be named after Ayodhya while Faizabad is the district and divisional headquarters. The second will be formed by merging the municipal boards of Mathura and Vrindavan, both religious sites that are now set to generate more revenue and get more funds, government sources say.