Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, June 8:
It is now clear that the Centre is economical with the truth when it says it has sanctioned Rs 50 crore to Odisha for the mega Nabakalebara festival. But surprisingly, the state government which had made a habit of crying ‘central neglect’ at the drop of a hat during the UPA regime, is now tongue-tied at this attempt at hoodwinking by the NDA government.
The Rs 50 crore that the Centre claims it has given 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.
The other 11 cities in the PRASAD list prepared by the Union Ministry of Tourism are Amritsar, Ajmer, Amaravati, Dwaraka, Gaya, Kanchipuram, Mathura, Varanasi, Vellankani, Kedarnath and Kamakhy.
Fund allocations under the scheme are being made for development of infrastructure in tourist places with religious interest. Like other places covered under the PRASAD scheme, Rs 50 crore has been sanctioned for Puri. But it has nothing to do with the Nabakalebara.
Infrastructure projects have been planned with the money sanctioned for the benefit of tourists in Puri which include beach development, construction of Jagannath rest places, peripheral development of Gundicha temple, development of Ramchandi temple and Deuli mutt etc.
Had Nabakalebara not been there, Puri would still have got the same amount of funds like other cities included under the scheme. Moreover, the development projects approved under PRASAD have no chance of getting completed before Nabakalebara.
But what is surprising is minister after Central minister has been repeatedly claiming that the Central government has sanctioned Rs 50 crore for development of Nabakalebara infrastructure. Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed at Rourkela on April 1 that this amount has been provided for Nabakalebara.
According to sources, the state government has received Rs 10 crore out of the Rs 50 crore towards the end of March. The money is yet to be spent. Moreover, there is little time left between now and Nabakalebara to spend the Rs 10 crore and submit utilization certificate for it. Therefore there is little possibility of getting the next instalment by Nabakalebara festival. It’s beyond one’s comprehension how the Centre has been claiming that the amount is for development of infrastructure for Nabakalebara.
Deuli mutt’s development has been included among various tourism infrastructure development projects. Since the state Tourism department has developed Deuli mutt by spending around Rs 2 crore, the department has written to the Centre for reimbursing the amount.
The Centre’s neglect of Nabakalebara doesn’t end here. The Union Tourism Ministry had promised to include Nabakalebara festival in its ‘Incredible India’ campaign, which is yet to be implemented. Since less than a month and half is left for the Nabakalebara, no one has an answer on when the campaign will kick off. There would be no time left for a tourist to decide after watching the Nabakalebara campaign and then plan to visit Puri.