SUBJECT : Varanasi gets a tourism boost

Varanasi, March 3rd: The millennia old city of Varanasi gets a tourism boost, as the city is also a beneficiary of the budgetary allocations for tourism promotion. In the 2016-17 Budget, finance minister Arun Jaitely has proposed Rs. 707.40 crore for Integrated Development of Tourist Circuits around Specific Themes (Swadesh Darshan), and Rs 100 crore for national mission on Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual Augmentation. Varanasi is one of the destinations being covered under both the schemes.

This year's budget also proposes a sum of Rs. 900 crore for tourism infrastructure, Rs. 92.60 crore for other support to infrastructure, Rs. 412.87 crore for promotion and publicity (including market development assistance), and Rs. 160.50 crore for training and skill development.

The ministry of tourism introduced two new schemes PRASAD (Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual Augmentation Drive) and Swadesh Darshan - the integrated development of theme-based tourist circuits in 2014-15. Under PRASAD 12 cities including Amritsar, Ajmer, Dwaraka, Mathura, Varanasi, Gaya, Puri, Amaravati, Kanchipuram, Vellankanni, Kedarnath and Guwahati have been identified for development. Under Swadesh Darshan scheme, spiritual circuit has been identified as theme circuit for development. "Sarnath is one of the destinations being covered under Swadesh Darshan," the regional tourism officer Ravindra Kumar Mishra told TOI adding that the light and sound show at Sarnath is being implemented under this scheme.

Mishra said that the work on light and sound show at the backdrop of Dhammek Stupa will begin shortly, and it will be completed by the end of the year at the cost of Rs. 7.34 crore. Besides, other projects in Sarnath include the development of Buddha theme park and development of Sarang Kund. The other projects like cruising in Ganga between Rajghat to Assi Ghat and light and laser show at Assi Ghat are in the pipeline, he added.
According to budget statement, the provision of tourism infrastructure relates to the expenditure on creation of infrastructure facilities for Integrated Development of Tourist Circuits around Specific Themes, to beautify and improve the amenities and infrastructure at pilgrimage centres of all faiths. This includes wayside amenities, tourist reception centres, refurbishment of monuments, special tourism projects, adventure and sports facilities, sound and light shows, illuminations of monuments, providing for improvement in solid waste management and sewerage management, improvement of surroundings, signages, procurement of equipment directly related to tourism and rural tourism projects. This provision also relates to the large revenue generating projects, generating revenue through levy of fees or user charges like tourist trains, cruise vessels, cruise terminals, convention centres, and golf courses.

Source: Times of India