Temple circuit in north Bengal
The Mamata Banerjee government has decided to develop a tourist circuit in north Bengal comprising three temples.
Sources said the move assumed significance against the backdrop of the Narendra Modi government’s focus on developing religion-based tourism in the country amid feedback that it yielded political dividends in various states.
“States like Uttarakhand and Rajasthan have already started working on the lines of the Centre’s policy… The BJP has done very well in those states in the last Lok Sabha polls. It appears the ruling Trinamul is set to follow the same path in north Bengal where the BJP won seven out of eight Lok Sabha seats,” said an official.
Sources in the Bengal tourism department said it had completed the first phase of infrastructure development of the historic Bhramri Devi temple, located at Bodaganj on the fringes of the Baikunthapur forest, around 18km from Jalpaiguri town.
Detailed project reports (DPR) to refurbish Sevoke Kalibari, about 25km from Siliguri, are being prepared. It is also expected that the construction of Debi Choudhurani temple, 25km from Jalpaiguri town, would be over in a few months.
Since the three temples are located on the fringes of the Safari Park and Gajoldoba Tourism Hub near Siliguri, the department is hopeful of greater footfalls in the area once the tourist circuit takes shape after the renovation of the temples.
A section of state officials believes the BJP’s Hinduvta plank had an impact in north Bengal in the Lok Sabha elections. “It is interesting that the state is focusing on development of temples under the name of a tourist circuit,” said an official.
Senior Bengal officials said the government had an overall “development plan” behind the focus on the circuit as it also wanted to benefit from the “Bharatmala” project of the Centre in which roads are developed to connect major religious places across the country. “If Bengal can make religious tourism spots popular, it would be able to persuade the Centre to bring more roads under the road scheme,” said an official.
The Mamata government expects to complete the tourist circuit soon and hopes it would boost tourism in north Bengal given the fact that 60 per cent of domestic tourism in India is driven by religion-related factors.
State tourism minister Gautam Deb inaugurated new facilities at the Bhramri Devi temple near Jalpaiguri on Sunday.
Sources said the project report for Sevoke Kalibari was almost ready and work was expected to start early next year.