February , 2024
Why won’t Ayodhya become another Mecca, Bethlehem or Jerusalem?
17:33 pm

Buroshiva Dasgupta

When Amit Shah was campaigning in West Bengal during the Lok Sabha elections, he had promised a moon to rebuild ‘Sonar Bangla’. One of the inquisitive reporters, wondering about the cost of so many projects promised by him, asked Mr. Shah directly as to how he would raise the money to fulfil the promises. Pat came the answer of Mr. Shah “Look, I am a baniya; we know how to raise funds”.

Attitude matters. There may be fierce political contro-versies regarding the utility or impact of building a temple at such a huge cost. Then the question of building, on public funds, an international airport at Ayodhya, six lane highways and other infrastructural facilities at a place which in a not so distant past was almost an unknown place. Keeping aside the politics of the place, the transformation Ayodhya has undergone in the last few years has raised possibilities of international tourism associated with the pilgrimages of Haj, Christmas or Easter. The cool economic strategy behind politics can hardly be ignored.

It is estimated that Ayodhya will be attracting about three lakh tourists everyday, of which a large section will be visiting from the Diaspora. Naturally the construction of good hotels in and around Ayodhya has gone up from the present 17 to about a 100. And many more will be coming up soon. Just like the newly transformed Benaras, Ayodhya will also be drawing large number of foreign tourists. Even in Bengal, especially

after the UNESCO announcements, the Durga puja is fast becoming a tourist draw and an estimate says that the festival involves business worth 50,000 crores every year. Instead of criticizing the chief minister for paying the clubs who hold these pujas, the centre too has now decided to pay handsomely some of the clubs to encourage Durga puja in Bengal which has now become ‘intangible heritage’.

Tourism in India, in spite of its natural charm and variety of life, is still a not so developed industry. Its contribution to the country’s GDP is only 6.7% which is far below than that of developed countries. India’s roads, railways and airports are undergoing a sea change which naturally is expected to have a considerable impact on future tourism. The government too in the last 2023-24 budget had allotted rupees 2400 crores for tourism, a large part of which was specially earmarked for ‘Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual Heritage Augmentation Drive’ (PRASHAD). Clearly, Ayodhya is not just political. There is a clear economic plan behind it. The expectation of more funds in this segment is high in the coming budget, even though it will be an ad hoc one before the elections. Infrastructure building in Ayodhya is on in full speed and this falls in line with the election strategy of the ruling party.

Based on Ayodhya temple, the state economy of Uttar Pradesh is expected to reap huge benefits. Its revenue collection through taxes is expected to go up from 20,000 to 25,000 crores. The country’s tourism economy can double and reach four lakh crores.

Both Palestine and Israel are locked in bitter battle; but there is always an attempt to keep Bethlehem and Jerusalem free from the war zones for the pilgrims during the festivals. Similarly, Iran may be attacking Pakistan and the Middle East remains in constant turmoil; but the Haj pilgrimage is generally unaffected. With the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya, India is thinking global; though internally, politics around the temple will keep the country war-torn – at least for some time now.

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