The reference to the development of 17 iconic tourism sites of India in Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s budget speech has garnered strong criticism from the BJD, as no monument from Odisha has made it to the list.
Presenting the budget, Sitharaman had said, “The government is developing 17 iconic tourism sites into world-class destinations which will serve as a model for other tourism sites. The iconic tourism sites would enhance the visitor experience, which would lead to increase visits of both domestic and international tourists at these destinations”.
As per a written reply given by then Tourism Minister K J Alphons, the 17 sites identified were Taj Mahal and Fatehpur Sikri in Uttar Pradesh; Ajanta and Ellora (Maharashtra); Humayun’s Tomb, Red Fort and Qutub Minar (Delhi); Colva Beach (Goa); Amer Fort (Rajasthan); Somnath and Dholavira (Gujarat); Khajuraho (Madhya Pradesh); Hampi (Karnataka); Mahabalipuram (Tamil Nadu); Assam- Kaziranga (Assam); Kumarakom (Kerala) and Mahabodhi (Bihar).
“The ministry shall be developing the above sites in a holistic manner with a focus on issues concerning connectivity to the destination, better facilities/experience for the tourists at the site, skill development, the involvement of local community, promotion and branding and by bringing in private investment”, Alphons had said.
He further added, “The monuments taken up for development under the above-mentioned project fall under the jurisdiction of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and State Archaeology Departments. The ministry will carry out interventions at these monuments in collaboration with the ASI and State Government”.
Calling the finance minister’s announcement “sad and astounding”, BJD Lok Sabha leader Pinaki Misra said, “How could the centre not select even one of the many (tourism) sites in Odisha? And why have they not acknowledged it as an old announcement instead of making it out to be an ‘iconic’ announcement?
“They had promised in the manifesto to make Puri the spiritual capital of the country. What is the roadmap? The first step could have been to give it an Iconic status. There is definite justification for (inclusion of) Konark Temple”, Misra, the Puri MP said. He added that Khandagiri, Udaygiri Caves and the nesting beaches for Olive Ridley Turtles are not anywhere else in the world. “Of course, we will take it up with the (Central) Government”, Misra said.
Speaking for BJP Odisha unit, Prithviraj Harichandan said, “The party will also draw the centre’s attention to this issue. Let the state government also do the same. There is no need for politicization of the matter”.