By Parth Gupta
After sharp criticism faced by the UP government due to the death of over sixty children in Gorakhpur, the Yogi government is in hot waters again. This time, it is because of their proposal to construct a 100-metre tall statue of Lord Rama on the banks of the Saryu river, in the temple town of Ayodhya.
An effort for religious tourism
The proposal was presented to Governor Ram Naik, as a part of the state tourism department’s effort to promote religious tourism. The presentation was made by the Principal Secretary of Tourism, Awanish Kumar Awasthi. However, the communique stated that the statue will be built at Saryughat after clearance from the National Green Tribunal. The approximate cost of this project, along with the grand Diwali celebrations in Ayodhya this year, add up to Rs. 195.89 crore, and of this, Rs. 133.70 crore has been sanctioned by the Union government already.
Awasthi said in the presentation, titled ‘Nav Ayodhya’, that a ‘deepotsav’ will be organised in Ayodhya at Ram Ki Paidi on October 18, a day before the Hindu festival of lights. Over 171,000 earthen lamps will be lit to celebrate the festival that marks the return of Lord Rama to Ayodhya after an exile of 14 years. This will be done in the presence of Governor Naik, Adityanath, state Tourism Minister Rita Bahuguna Joshi, Union Minister of State for Tourism Alphons Kannanthanan, and Union Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma.
The criticism is due to various reasons. Primarily, it appears that the government is focused on erecting statues which cost the tax-payers millions of rupees, and even that during an economic slowdown. During such a crisis, providing an incentive to the producers and manufacturers in the state by way of tax cuts would have set an example. Secondly, the Yogi government is preparing for massive celebrations when over 60 families in the CM’s constituency still mourn the death of their newborns.
The government has also failed to justify the omission of the Taj Mahal from the recently released tourism booklet. Adding to the trouble, Laxmi Narayan Chaudhary, a cabinet minister in UP, has said that the Taj Mahal was “rightly kept out” of the tourism booklet and that the 17th-century monument “should instead be replaced with the Guru Gorakhnathpeeth.”
A threat to secularism?
Installing a statue of Lord Ram at a place which saw one of the worst communal riots in modern India, is just not what the people of UP need. What happened in 1992 hasn’t been, and never will be, forgotten. Another religious structure is simply an invitation to rising tensions.
The decision, following the Taj Mahal being chucked out of the tourism booklets, because, as told by Yogi’s minister, it “doesn’t present Indian culture”, questions the nature of the Yogi government and their will to uphold secular values in the state.
Featured Image Source: Wikimedia Commons