Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Feb 13:
A three-day ‘International Buddhist conference’ to celebrate and endorse the Buddhist history and culture of Odisha was inaugurated by chief minister Naveen Patnaik here today in which over 150 delegates from different countries are participating.
“I am delighted that so many important delegates have attended this important conference on Buddhism here in Bhubaneswar. This will certainly encourage tourism in our state,” Patnaik said.
Given the high inflow of tourists to the state in last two years, the tourism ministry has proposed the state government to set up eight tourist police stations in four districts for the security of the visitors, Tourism minister Ashok Panda said.
“The connectivity is the bigger issue. We need to be able to connect to important places such as Vanaras, Kolkata, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, Malaysia etc to attract tourists. Chief Minister has been demanding this to the Centre since quite a long time and we have also raised this issue in the recent conference convened by civil aviation minister,” he added.
“We expect a course correction in safety aspects once the eight police stations become functional in the four districts. Apart from this, we will give priority to accessibility, infrastructure and marketing to attract the tourists to the Buddhist heritage sites,” said Tourism secretary Arabinda Padhee.
While there are over 324 Buddhist sites in Odisha, the government has earmarked Lalitgiri, Udayagiri and Ratnagiri as the Diamond Triangle, which will be given priority during this event.
The state government has chalked out big plans to develop the tourist spots and attract international tourists to the state.
The government has written to Air India to start regular flight operations from Bodhgaya and Banaras to Bhubaneswar. Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is planning a museum in Lalitgiri which will feature the tooth of Buddha. The government will spend Rs 9 crores for this, sources said.
Besides, the project report of a mega circuit plan of Rs 50 crore for the upkeep of the Buddhist Heritage in the state has been completed and has been sent to the Centre for approval.
The government is also planning to erect the largest ever statue of Buddha in Langudi-Neulapur and have included Sathipur of Jajpur district in the ‘Jajabara Scheme’ for the tourists.