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Central roadmap for Buddhist circuit

- Project to unlock heritage & tourism potential looks at Rs 1200-crore investment

The Centre on Thursday launched a roadmap for integrated tourism development of the Buddhist circuit in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

Shripad Naik, the minister of state (independent charge) for tourism and culture, released the financial strategy, “Investing in Buddhist circuit”, and said work would start soon. Bihar’s tourism minister Javed Iqbal Ansari and his Uttar Pradesh counterpart Om Prakash Singh were also present.

The project is a combined initiative of the Centre, the Bihar and Uttar Pradesh governments, private sector, Buddhist monasteries and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), an arm of the World Bank. The circuit is a globally important route for an estimated 45 crore Buddhists across Nepal and India — from Lumbini where Buddha was born, Bodhgaya where he attained enlightenment to Kushinagar where he achieved salvation.

As the state governments have limited resources, said Naik, the strategy was to mobilise additional resources from the private sector in a sustainable manner. It estimates that about Rs 1,200-crore investment is required to improve infrastructure, facilities and services of logistics companies and tour operators along the circuit.

In the budget, finance minister Arun Jaitley had earmarked Rs 500 crore for tourist circuits. Sources said of it, Rs 100 crore would be used for the Buddhist circuit.

Officials in the tourism ministry said the IFC worked with a government-constituted committee to develop a five-year roadmap to establish the circuit as a tourist and pilgrimage destination. The roadmap, released today, outlines actions needed to transform the Buddhist sites.

A tourism official said: “While Rs 500 crore would be mobilised from the public sector, the same amount would come from the private sector. The IFC will pitch in with the rest.”

“It is a tremendous opportunity for the World Bank group of institutions to offer inclusive solutions, bring public and private stakeholders together to unlock India’s heritage and tourism potential,” said Onno Ruhl, country director, World Bank, India.

The Union tourism ministry would also organise the 4th International Buddhist Conclave in Bodhgaya and Sarnath from September 26 to 28, in association with Bihar and UP, to promote the heritage.