Rishikesh will continue to be identified as Yoga capital: Union Tourism Minister

Dehradun: Terming Yoga India's gift to the world, Union Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma on Sunday said that the identity of Rishikesh will continue to be preserved as the Yoga capital.

The minister, who was speaking during the inauguration of the International Yoga Festival, which continues till March 7 at Rishikesh, said there are unlimited opportunities for tourism in the Himalayan state.

Sharma said 0.64 per cent of international tourists come to India, resulting in 1.07 lakh crore rupees as a foreign currency and added if the percentage is increased to one per cent then the contribution of tourism to GDP will rise to 9 per cent, said a government release.

Speaking on the occasion, Chief Minister Harish Rawat said Rishikesh has established its identity as the Yoga destination due to the contribution of saints and sages who helped in spreading it worldwide.

He added that if the Centre initiated a research institute here then Yoga can reach greater heights. Rawat said the state government is marking out 1000 schools in urban areas where part-time Yoga teachers will be posted. He said if someone in the private sector starts Yoga and meditation centres then 75 per cent of the teacher's salary will be paid by the state.

The minister also consented to Rawat's request for the development of Jollygrant Airport in the state, saying that due to excessive work pressure and challenges faced by New Delhi airport, packing and cargo facilities can be developed in at Jollygrant Airport.

Referring to the Kedarnath flood tragedy which had caused widespread devastation in the state, Sharma said normally the implementation of Central schemes takes about two years, but the redevelopment of Kedarnath area is being interrupted due to geographical and weather situations.

He said keeping it in mind the duration has been kept for three years and added that under special circumstances it can also be extended to four years.

Terming the Chardham Yatra his priority Rawat said he is hopeful that the tourists will return to at least 75 per cent. Rawat said proposals have been sent to the Centre for the construction of 'Aastha Path' along the river Ganga on the banks of the river Ganga as part of 'Namami Ganga' plan.

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