Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Mar 21:
The Central government will extend all possible support for the Nabakalebara Yatra of Lord Jagannath in the pilgrim town of Odisha’s Puri.
This was announced by Union minister for Tourism and Culture, Mahesh Sharma here today.
“In the event of requirement of more funds for the event, arrangements will be made for funds through other schemes and programmes”, the Union minister told reporters after attending a high level review meeting at the State Secretariat here.
Taking a swipe at the state government which has been accusing the Centre of not making any budgetary provisions for the Nabakalebara Yatra, Sharma said the state government had sought Rs 52 crore for the Yatra and the Centre has approved Rs 50 crore.
Launching the Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual Augmentation Drive (PRASAD) scheme of the Centre which is meant for augmentation of infrastructure at pilgrimage sites across the country, he said the Centre has plans for putting Odisha in the world tourism map.
“”Keeping in view the significance of the forthcoming Nabakalebara Mahotsav, the Centre has moved a step forward and has extended its hand of cooperation to the government here. Our government at the Centre has immediately sanctioned Rs 50 crore against the state government’s seeking of Rs 52 crore on priority basis for the Nabakalebara festival. A sum of Rs 22 crore has been sanctioned through Heritage Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY) and the rest amount through other schemes like PRASAD”, the Union minister said.
Reacting on newspaper reports of Rs 8 crore not being released by the Centre, the minister clarified that there are certain provisions of the Finance department for providing utilization certificate.
Since the utilization certificate has not been provided, the fund has not been released, he pointed out.
He, however, said the state government has assured him of submitting utilization certificate by March 31. The fund will be released within one month of the submission of the certificate, the minister assured, he added.
“We are committed to promote Odisha as a tourist destination in the domestic as well as international circuits. Both the governments at the Centre and the state will make endevours in putting Odisha in the world tourism map”, Sharma said.
Union Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan expressed displeasure over the tardy progress of work by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in the state and urged the agency to expedite the work.
“The state government has rightly said that there is a need for increasing manpower in the ASI’s operation in the state”, he said, and requested Sharma to look into the matter.
Among others, state Tourism minister Ashok Panda, chief secretary GC Pati, Union and state secretaries of Tourism and senior officials of the concerned departments were present at the meeting.