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Conflict of interest in Buddhist circuit

The agreement between the state government and International Finance Corporation to boost tourist inflow to Buddhist pilgrimage sites has run into a conflict owing to differing views of the two.

The tourism department hopes to revamp the basic infrastructure and amenities for tourists, while the corporation is more keen on creation and beautification of parks along the sites.

The International Finance Corporation is a member of the World Bank group. The major global development institution is presently working in more than 100 countries.

B. Pradhan, principal secretary, tourism department, said the agreement had been signed recently. “According to the agreement, an initial sum of Rs 5.5 crore would be spent on development of the Buddhist circuit in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. The neighbouring state has got several places of Buddhist interest like Kapilavastu, Kushinagar, Sarnath, Sravasti and others. In Bihar, the places of interest under the Buddhist Circuit include Gaya, Nalanda, Bhagalpur, Patna, East and West Champaran, Vaishali and Jehanabad. According to the agreement, 50 per cent of the amount would be given by the International Finance Corporation, 40 per cent by the Union ministry of tourism and five per cent would be borne by the Bihar and UP governments, each. We have deposited the amount,” Pradhan told The Telegraph.

The agreement, however, has run into a conflict. “The International Finance Corporation is paying the largest chunk of the amount. However, they are focusing more on beautification, which includes creation and developing attractive parks along the sites. The state government, however, is not agreeing to it. In Bihar, though the tourism sector is developing, we lag in many areas, especially basic infrastructure. There are many tourist spots, which do not have budget hotels, good public washrooms and toilets, proper lighting facilities and others. Unless we develop the basics, we cannot think about creation of parks. The essential things have to be developed first,” an official of the department said.

Sources said at present, the department is carrying out several programmes aimed at developing the Buddhist circuit.

“The department has submitted a few development projects to the ministry of tourism, which have been approved. The Bihar government is also carrying out some schemes. These include development of a sanskritiak gram and other tourist facilities in Nalanda at a cost of Rs 27.79 crore, Ghora Katora in Rajgir at Rs 65.6 crore, which we hope will be approved by the ministry by December last week, Vikramshila in Bhagalpur at Rs 12.65 crore, basic tourist facilities in Dungeshwari (Gaya) at Rs 3.51 crore, wayside amenities at Kesariya (East Champaran), Lauria (West Champaran) and Nandangarh (West Champaran) at a cost of Rs 8.85 crore and other places. The schemes include development of the basic infrastructure of these places too. The International Finance Corporation, we think, needs to concentrate more on developing basic infrastructure rather than going big right from the start,” the official added.