Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar/New Delhi, Jun 12:
Union Culture and Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma today promised that the Centre will launch a media campaign to promote the Nabakalebara festival in Odisha as an international festival in a big way with a little over a month ahead of the Car festival.
Sharma maintained that the Centre is committed to launching a massive campaign in electronic, print and social media during a meeting with State Tourism Minister Ashok Panda, who called on him in New Delhi today and put forth the demands of the state to release funds at the earliest.
Panda urged Sharma to expedite the reimbursement of funds for which the Utilisation Certificates (UCs) have already been submitted. He further requested branding of Nabakalebar as an International Festival and sanction of funds for the proposed light and sound shows at three tourist destinations in the state.
The Union minister assured Panda that the Tourism Ministry will make all efforts to provide funds at the earliest for the three light and sound shows proposed to be commissioned at Dhauli, twin hills of Udayagiri and Khandagiri and at the Sun Temple in Konark.
Interestingly, in a written communiqué to the state government, the Centre had asked the former to make alternative arrangements to finance the light and sound projects. Though it had not clearly mentioned that it is not going to release the funds, it had said that there was uncertainty over sanctioning of the funds.
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During the discussion, Sharma hailed the Odisha government’s decsion to waive VAT on Aviation Turbine Fuel (ATF) to attract international carriers. “We would initiate necessary steps to start international operations of Air India from and to Bhubaneswar,” he said.
Panda also stressed on the need to start international flight from Bhubaneshwar International Airport ahead of the Nabakalebara festival to help promote tourism in the state.
It may be recalled that the Centre had announced Rs 50 crore for the Nabakalebara festival in the third week of March this year. The Union minister had said that his department had released Rs 50 crore for the Lord’s festival against the state’s demand of Rs 52 crore.
But it later emerged that the Rs 50 crore that the Centre claims it had given for Nabakalebara has actually been sanctioned under the Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spirituality Augmentation Drive (PRASAD) scheme which is being implemented in 12 identified cities in the country, including Puri.