Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav skipped the International Buddhist Conclave,which was inaugurated by Union Tourism Minister Subodh Kant Sahai in Varanasi today.
The two-day conclave is being organized in India after two years. The last conclave was organised in Nalanda in February 2010.
Akhileshs schedule was changed in the last moment. The district administration of Varanasi,which had made elaborate arrangements for the CMs visit,was informed in the morning about the cancellation. Hundreds of Samajwadi Party (SP) workers who had assembled at Babatpur airport to receive Akhilesh returned disappointed. Akhilesh has not visited Varanasi after assuming charge as CM of the state.
Sahai had met Akhilesh in July at Lucknow.
The conclave was inaugurated at The Gateway Hotel Ganges in Varanasi. Some Buddhist monks attending the function believed that the venue should have been Sarnath rather than a hotel. They also said that monks should have been given place on the stage.
Sahai,who inaugurated the conclave,announced in his speech that tourist from countries with sizeable Buddhist population such as Thailand and Malaysia would be provided the facility of visa on arrival (VOA).
Sahai also sought the support of the state government for developing ghats on the banks of river Ganga in the name of the Buddha and Kabir. He announced that the Centre is ready to provide the funds if the state government provides the land. Sahai also solicited the support of the state government in keeping the city of Varanasi clean.
The minister said the Centre has identified three circuits to be developed as part of Buddhist Circuits during the 12th Five Year Plan. The circuits are Dharmyatra or sacred circuit,extended Dharmayatra or extended sacred circuit or Retracing Buddhas Footsteps and Buddhist Heritage Trails State Circuits.
The conclave was organised to bring together international buyers from around the world,particularly popular Buddhist destinations like Singapore,Malaysia,Japan,Korea and China,to interact,promote and sell,with the objective of increasing tourist arrivals in India and specifically to the Buddhist sites in different states.
The conclave is being attended by about 130 overseas guests from 30 countries. The conclave sessions include technical sessions on Buddhism for scholars,and travel and tourism sessions for the media and tour operators. The delegates will also be taken for site visits to Bodh Gaya and Nalanda.