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Mega plan for Ayodhya as a big centre of tourist, economic and religious activity

The Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh has prepared a master plan for turning the ancient holy city of Ayodhya into a ”Smart City’. It may be recalled that in November 2019, the UP government had agreed to develop seven municipal corporations, including Ayodhya and Gorakhpur, as ‘smart cities’. Also, the Mayor of Ayodhya, Rishikesh Upadhyay, has disclosed that the ancient holy city will be developed as a ”major pilgrimage centre’ under the Smart City Project.

After the Supreme Court’s verdict in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case, the Uttar Pradesh government has made elaborate plans to construct a resplendent destination in the temple town. Expecting nearly 100,000 pilgrims a day at the Shree Ram Janmabhoomi temple once it is ready by the end of 2023 or 2024, the Uttar Pradesh government and the Centre are working on a plan to develop Ayodhya as a big centre of tourist, economic and religious activity. The state government aims to build Ayodhya as the biggest religious destination in North India with plans to constitute an ‘Ayodhya Tirtha Development Board’ to take this task further.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at the ground-breaking ceremony on August 05 at the temple that not only does the plan increase the grandeur of Ayodhya but also ‘changes the economy’ of the region. “There will be new opportunities in this region. People will come here from the whole world for paying obeisance to Lord Ram and Mata Sita. So much will change here. The temple should be a modern symbol of India’s heritage,” he said.

Officials said that the mega plan will take shape simultaneously with the construction of the temple and will include an international Sri Ram Airport in Ayodhya, a modern railway station taking shape by next year, new religious tourism attractions like the world’s tallest statue of Lord Ram and development of the entire 84-mile perimeter area the city as a religious destination. Several multi-level parking, a network of widened highways and a two-km long elevated road leading to Ram Janmabhoomi, underground cabling and deployment of electric vehicles to ferry people are on the anvil.

There is also a proposal to expand the area under the Ayodhya Development Authority to allow the coming up of hotels, restaurants and tourism-related infrastructure, along with the development of banks on both sides of the Saryu river. Union ministries of tourism and road transport and highways are working with the state, and the Union tourism minister Pralhad Patel was in Ayodhya last week to discuss the matter, said officials.

Ashish Sompura, son of the temple’s original designer Chandrakant B. Sompura, sad, “The first priority is the completion of the temple and the corridor till the temple. The plan for that is ready. We are the architects and Larsen & Toubro will construct the temple. We are expecting about 80,000 to one lakh pilgrims daily once the temple is ready.”

The 70-acre land available for the temple premises will also see extensive development, with a 360-degree theatre to screen documentaries on the life of Lord Ram, museums, photo galleries, worship halls, a big food court, a laser sound-and-light show in a pond, solar lighting and an extensive green belt area, said people privy to the plan.

Sources in the Culture and Tourism Department had suggested that a 13-kilometre long corridor on the life of Lord Ram is also on the cards. A cruise on the Saryu river is also proposed, which will provide a scenic view to tourists and devotees who come to Ayodhya. Meanwhile, five-star hotels and resorts are also expected to come up in the temple town.

A proposal to include 42 nearby villages into Ayodhya has also been sent to the government by the Ayodhya Municipal Corporation. Earlier the proposal was to include only 22 villages. If sources are to be believed then the state government is likely to rope in a force of more than 2,000 labourers for the completion of construction of the Ram temple.

Given the proposal for a new Ayodhya township, there is a plan to develop 60 religious spots along the 84-mile perimeter route around the holy city which is more than 250-km long and touches five adjoining districts. About 10 famous ponds in Ayodhya will be rejuvenated and multiple railway overbridges are planned on both the 84 Kosi Marg and the 14 Kosi Marg around Ayodhya to offer a hassle-free experience to pilgrims.