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India joins forces with World Bank to develop Buddhist tourism circuit

New Delhi: Aiming at attracting more tourists and creating job opportunities, government today launched a strategy for integrated tourism development of the Buddhist sector in collaboration with the World Bank. Dubbed as "Investing in the Buddhist Circuit", the Rs 450 lakh initiative would be carried out for development of Buddhist heritage sites in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in the first stage.

While International Finance Corporation, a wing of World Bank, will provide Rs 180 lakh, Tourism Ministry would contribute Rs 225 lakh and the contribution of Bihar and UP is Rs 22.50 lakh each for the project. The strategy aims at infrastructure development, skill development, increased market access, involvement of communities and enhancing the visitors experience in the Buddhist circuit.

"Our government under leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has identified development of Buddhist circuit as a priority. Today we are launching strategy for integrated tourism development of the Buddhist Circuit with the partnership of the state governments, various stakeholders and private sector," Tourism Minister Sripad Naik said here after launching the programme. He said India is blessed to be the land where many religions including Buddhism originated.

"Buddhism is one of the strongest bonding factors in Asia and the world with nearly 500 million followers all over the world. Today Buddhist heritage is India's USP in tourism," he said. Naik further said all places including Lumbini where Lord Buddha was born and Kapilvastu, Bodhagaya, Saranath, Kushinagar have become holy religious icons for Buddhists.

"Our efforts are to develop and promote all places connected with Lord Buddha and Buddhist heritage in the country." In order to increase the footfall, ministry is working for extending the visitors' season at Buddhist sites by organising special religious during the non peak periods.

The minister also announced to hold an international Buddhist conclave in Bodhgaya and Saranath from September 26 to 28 this year to encourage tourist inflows to Buddhist sites. Tourism Secretary Parvez Dewan said in the first phase Bihar and UP have been taken and later on 17 more states including Odisha, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh would be taken up for development of Buddhist-related circuits in the country.

The strategy for development of Buddhist sites provides an integrated framework to fast track tourism growth on the circuit by focusing on critical and opportunities along the destination value chain and will serve as a guiding framework for investment in tourism development on the circuit over the next five to 10 years. World Bank Country Director Onno Ruhl said "the prime target is to fight poverty by creating jobs.

India has world class tourism products and it has sheer potential of becoming number one in the tourism sector." Ruhl further said tourism is important in fighting against poverty and it can provide direct and indirect employment opportunities. Bihar Tourism Minister Javed Iqbal Ansari and UP Tourism Minister Om Prakash were also present on the occasion. Tourism Ministry has planned to develop tourism circuits on religious themes during the 12th Five-Year Plan period. The development of Buddhist circuit was announced recently in the budget.

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