Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has written to the Union Tourism Ministry proposing that it select two of five tourism site options based in the state and include them in the Centre’s proposed iconic tourism sites.
Earlier this week, the reference to the development of 17 iconic tourism sites across the country in Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s Budget speech had garnered strong criticism from the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), as no monument from Odisha had made it to the list.
In the letter, Patnaik said the Centre’s omission of Odisha from the list was a “surprise”. Listing five options – the Sun Temple at Konark, Chilika Lake, Bhitarkanika National Park, Simlipal National Park and Diamond Triangle Buddhist Circuit – Patnaik asked the Centre to “consider inclusion of at least two of the above mentioned tourist places. in the list”.
“The tourism sector contributes 13% to the state’s GDP and needs a strategic boost,” Patnaik wrote.
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 an increase of visits of both domestic and international tourists.”
As per a written reply given to Rajya Sabha by then Tourism Minister K J Alphons last year, the 17 sites identified were the Taj Mahal and Fatehpur Sikri (Uttar Pradesh); Ajanta and Ellora (Maharashtra); Humayun’s Tomb, Red Fort and Qutub Minar (New 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).