| The model of the proposed Buddha Smriti Stupa kept at Patna Museum. Picture by Deepak Kumar |
Escalation in land acquisition rates has cast a shadow on the government’s plan to relocate Buddha’s relics from Patna to Vaishali.
In February last year, the state cabinet approved the construction of a Buddha Smriti Stupa in Vaishali, some 55km north of Patna. The project was conceptualised to return Buddha relics from Patna Museum to Vaishali.
However, hike in the minimum value register (MVR) — the government authorised rate of land — and passage of the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Act in Lok Sabha last year has jacked up the cost for acquiring 72.94 acres in Vaishali to Rs 100 crore. It was originally assessed at Rs 16 crore.
Vaishali district officials agreed the rate revision has put acquisition of land for the project on hold.
The casket to be kept at the museum was given to the Lichchhavis of Vaishali after Buddha attained mahaparinirvana (salvation) at Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh. It was discovered by the Patna-based KP Jayaswal Research Institute in 1958-62. The relic casket contains the holy ashes of Lord Buddha mixed with earth, a piece of conch, pieces of beads, a thin golden leaf and a copper punch-marked coin.
The art, culture and youth affairs department has selected Suresh Goel And Associates, a Delhi-based firm, as the consultant to prepare the project’s master plan.
An official said: “Land acquisition cost for the Buddha Smriti Stupa project rose to around Rs 48 crore in May last year after the MVR was hiked in all districts across the state. After another revision in land acquisition cost in adherence to the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Act introduced by the Centre, it has risen to Rs 100 crore.”
Umesh Singh, deputy secretary, revenue and land reforms, said: “The land acquisition (amendment) act raised the compensation amount to four times of the circle rate.”
A senior official at the circle office in Vaishali said: “We would start paying the landowners, mostly farmers, once the money is released according to revised rates.”
The international Buddhist community in Vaishali is keen on bringing the relic casket back to Vaishali.
“The holy relic casket is the most revered and sacred object of worship in Buddhism. It should be brought back,” said P.C. Chandeshwari, chief monk, Thai International Monastery in Vaishali.