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Monk asks for parity in Delhi tourism aid

A Buddhist monk has demanded financial aid for Indian monasteries from the Union tourism ministry, similar to what it has planned for foreign monasteries to boost tourism in Bodhgaya in the off-season.

The Union tourism ministry has decided to provide financial assistance up to Rs 10 lakh to each foreign monastery in Bodhgaya for organising two-week festivals or ceremonies during the lean season (March-September). The decision was taken early this month.

At a meeting last Saturday, state tourism secretary Mihir Kumar Singh had told representatives of Indian and foreign monasteries of the initiative. It is aimed at generating tourist traffic during the lean season. The representatives were also given copies of the scheme.

On Tuesday, Bhikkhu Priyapala, the monk-in-charge of Chakma Buddhist monastery in Bodhgaya, sent an email to Singh demanding financial assistance for the Indian monasteries, too. In his email, Priyapala said: “The scheme, especially for foreign monasteries, is good and a unique initiative to promote and sustain tourism and tourist flow during off-season. But the new scheme may also send wrong signal to the Indian monasteries/Buddhists if similar scheme/initiative with lump sum payment is not given to them.”

He told The Telegraph there are around 10 Indian monasteries in Gaya and Bodhgaya, including All India Bhikkhu Sangh and Anand Buddha Vihara, and around 5,000 Indian Buddhists live in the two towns.

He added that giving financial assistance only to the foreign monasteries without a similar scheme for the Indian monasteries or Buddhists was discriminatory.

The foreign monasteries will be provided financial assistance directly by the Union ministry after successfully completing the event or the ceremony, judged by the number of tourists attending it and the publicity carried out by the monasteries for the event.