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Faith & fortune: economy booms in areas around temple replicas

Till five years ago,Ketkavle was just another village on the outskirts of the city with its 2,500 villagers struggling for their basic needs.

Written by Pranav Kulkarni | Mumbai |
May 13, 2009 11:19:10 pm

Till five years ago,Ketkavle was just another village on the outskirts of the city with its 2,500 villagers struggling for their basic needs. No roads,no market for their crops and no work for the uneducated hands.

The picture started to change in 2004,when Lord Venkateshwara Charitable and Religious Trust constructed a replica of the Balaji temple in Thirupati on 25 acres of land in the village. Instantly,the village was flooded with devotees from across the state and the country and the number has been increasing ever since. “We have visitors from places like Mumbai,Bangalore,Punjab and Delhi,” says Subhash Patil,administrative officer of the temple.

It’s a well known fact that towns where major temples are located do experience an economic boom. But in Pune this effect has been carried forward to areas that have replica temples in their midst viz,Vaishno Devi in Pimpri,Balaji in Ketkavle and Sai Baba temple in Shirgaon.

In Ketkavle,one member of each of the 250 families of the village is employed with the Balaji Temple either as cleaner or cook or parking attendant on an average salary of Rs 2000-3000 per month. As many as 5,000 devotees visit the temple every day giving a fillip to private transporters,restaurants,small shop owners and spiritual goods sellers. “Today,we have a 3.5-km tar road leading to our village from the highway. From one ST bus every two hours we have a bus every half hour to our village from the Swargate bus stand. The village has a petrol pump and four mobile towers have come up in a short span of four years. In five years,the temple has done for us what politicians could not do in 50 years,” says Satish Bathe,a villager.

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An identical story is repeated in Shirgaon,on the western outskirts of the city. According to Prakash Devle,head trustee,Shri Sai Baba Public Charitable Trust,the village sees 4,000 to 5,000 devotees every day. “The revenue generated out of the inflow is in the range of Rs 4 lakh per month and after taking care of the maintenance expenses,the rest of the amount is utilised for the development of the village,” he said.

Small time businesses have also boomed in Shirgaon. “Earlier,agriculture was the only source of income for our family. Today,I earn around Rs 3,000 on Thursdays and Sundays on my juice stall,” said Subhadra Gopale,cane juice shop owner. “We are coming up with a hospital with a capacity of 500 beds and an educational institute to ensure graduation of students in the village,” added Devle.

Indicative of the development is the stupendous increase in land prices in Shirgaon. “Five years ago my plot near the village was Rs 1.5 lakh per acre. Today,I get offers of Rs 40-45 lakh per acre,” said Ashok Bhagat,an entrepreneur.

Ashok Dhakneja,trustee Vaishnodevi Temple,Pimpri,the pioneer in the concept of replica temples,adds,“While commercialisation is a logical fallout of any emerging temple town,we feel it’s the faith that carries the place to good fortune.”

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