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Funds sought for temple town

Patna: National Commission for Minorities (NCM) members Sulekha Kumbhare and Manjit Singh Rai have demanded that the Centre make a budgetary provision of Rs 500 crore to turn Bodhgaya into a world-class pilgrimage place.

They have also suggested steps to improve road and air connectivity and make the Mahabodhi temple area a beggar-free zone. The temple marks the place where Siddharth attained enlightenment to become the Buddha.

Buddhists across the world wish to visit it at least once in their lifetime.

"Prime Minister Narendra Modi has declared Bodhgaya as the spiritual capital of India. It is required that the central government make a budgetary provision of at least Rs 500 crore in the first phase to make it a world-class pilgrimage place," Kumbhare said.

She also pointed out that an international convention centre with a Buddhist Theme Park should be established for exchange of language, culture and art between India and other Buddhist countries like Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, China, Myanmar, Cambodia and others.

Both the NCM members had visited Bodhgaya between April 26 and April 29 to participate in the International Buddhist Peace Conference held there prior to Buddha Purnima celebrations. Buddhist monks and scholars from several countries were present on the occasion.

Sulekha hails from Maharastra, a state with a sizeable and growing population of Buddhists. She also inspected facilities in Bodhgaya separately to take stock of the arrangements there.

"More air connectivity and airlines are needed to facilitate visits of people from different parts of India and the world. Trains to Bodhgaya from the Northeast, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh are needed and we will pursue this by meeting the Union railway minister," Kumbhare said.

She also added that regular bus service on the Patna-Gaya-Bodhgaya route is necessary. A transport plaza near Mahabodhi temple is also needed to provide buses to tourists.

"Security of the Mahabodhi temple is of utmost priority and an advanced security system is required at the place to perk up the overall security and replace the metal detector frisking procedure that is used right now," Kumbhare said.

Incidentally, the International Buddhist Peace Conference also passed resolutions for improvement of Bodhgaya on similar linesand asked for better display boards on all routes that lead to Mahabodhi temple, beautification of the city, and tree planting on a large scale.

The conference also demanded that the state government must take steps to make Mahabodhi temple area a beggar-free zone.

"Beggars should be shifted to shelter houses near the parking area in Bodhgaya. All beggars should be enrolled in skill development schemes of the central and state governments so that they could find suitable livelihood," a senior Bodhgaya-based monk told The Telegraph.

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