As fresh poll promises pour in, old one for Kaushambi uplift still pending - Hindustan Times
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As fresh poll promises pour in, old one for Kaushambi uplift still pending

By, Prayagraj
May 18, 2024 05:58 AM IST

An important stopover of the Buddhist Tourism Circuit, Kaushambi is revered by Buddhists across the world as a place which Lord Gautam Buddha visited many times to deliver his sermons.

As the election process gathers momentum with development a major plank for both the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the opposition to garner support, a noted pilgrimage site for Buddhists and Jains—Kaushambi—still awaits fulfilment of promises made for its uplift five years back.

A site of Buddhist tourism in Kaushambi. (HT)
A site of Buddhist tourism in Kaushambi. (HT)

Small wonder people appear unconvinced though leaders again harp on developing sites of tourist attraction here and ushering in overall development and employment for the locals.

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An important stopover of the Buddhist Tourism Circuit, Kaushambi is revered by Buddhists across the world as a place which Lord Gautam Buddha visited many times to deliver his sermons.

Situated 55km south-west of Prayagraj on the north bank of the Yamuna, the district that came into existence after being carved out of Prayagraj (then Allahabad) district on April 4, 1997, attracts religious tourists from various countries including Bhutan, Cambodia, Myanmar, South Korea, Japan and Sri Lanka.

These tourists follow the footsteps of Gautam Buddha from Lumbini in Nepal where he was born, through Gaya in Bihar where he attained enlightenment, to Sarnath where he gave his first sermon and then to Kushinagar and Kaushambi, where he preached extensively.

UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath had drawn a blueprint for the development of the district by connecting it with the Buddhist circuit but five years on, nothing much has been done to promote tourism and the tourism department even lacks its own office here, locals claim.

No wonder the linked benefits like employment generation and development too have not taken place as expected, they point out.

Proper hotels, a befitting marketplace for foreign tourists, streetlights and public toilets etc are still lacking near these sites. Even the medical college in the district is still under construction 27 years after the district came into being.

The master plan prepared to develop a grand Buddha Park, a befitting memorial, parking facility etc has failed to materialise even five years after the CM’s April 2018 announcement, says Shiv Pujan Yadav, a third term Gram Pradhan of Kosam Inam Gram Panchayat, located close to the revered Buddhist site, around 25 km from the district headquarters in Manjhanpur.

In the name of development, only some land has been purchased and fencing has been done. These sites lack basic amenities and tourists who do arrive prefer to leave within a few hours before sun set, he claims .

Munnu Lal, gram pradhan of Kosam Khiraj, a village adjacent to these sites agrees. “Potable water remains a problem in the area and we are still dependent on handpumps. The Buddhist sites hold great potential but despite announcements, lack of proper sheds , place for refreshments or even proper ghats on Yamuna banks makes it difficult for the tourists to spend any time here that could benefit the locals,” he said.

According to the figures of the tourism department, work on three big projects worth 56 crore is to be done for the Buddhist Circuit and budget for one project has been received. The plan is to build a Buddha Park and a gate complex at a cost of 23 crore each besides installing a tall statue of Tathagat Buddha at a cost of 10 crore. Till now the department has received a budget of only 23 crore for Buddha Park. Other projects are currently awaiting both approval and budget, claim officials.

Member of Association of Buddhist Tour Operators (ABTO) and Prayagraj-based tour operator Nilesh Narayan believes that claims notwithstanding, nothing much has been done to popularise Kaushmabi has a must visit tourist destination.

“In many ways it has a great potential to emerge as a site for foreign tourists. However, very few know about it. Just a handful of tourists who visit Prayagraj from Varanasi show interest in Kaushambi. If proper publicity is done, tourists would start coming and this would then lead to hotels and restaurants coming up here,” he adds .

The tourist places here include the fort of Buddha Viharam, Maharaj Udyan, the declared Ram Vihar, Jain temple, the historic mountain of Pabhosha and the picturesque banks of Yamuna.

District tourism officer Kirtiman Srivastava says the land for the Buddhist circuit projects had already been purchased but the work could not be started due to lack of budget. Now the budget has been received and work on the project will be done at a fast pace after the poll code of conduct is lifted.

Kaushambi parliamentary constituency this time has 19,04,466 eligible voters who will exercise their franchise. These include 10,09,841 men, 8,94,459 women and 166 transgender voters.

Kaushmabi goes to polls in the fifth phase with the gazette notification in this regard marking the start of the nomination process on April 26 (Friday). The last date for candidates to submit their nominations is May 3. The last date for withdrawal of candidature is May 6 and polling is on May 20 as per the ECI schedule.

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