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Sharmili Mallick

Bhubaneswar: With an aim to promote Buddhist tourism and create awareness to protect environment, more than hundred monks, nuns and followers of Buddhism from across the world have started 140 km 'Eco Padyatra' from Bhubaneswar.

The eight-day padyatra was flagged off by Tourism and Culture Minister Ashok Chandra Panda on Tuesday.

The eco padyatra, organised by New Delhi-based Drukpa Charitable Trust, will cover many Buddhist heritage sites in the State including Khandagiri, Udayagiri, Dhauligiri, Lalitgiri and Ratnagiri. The padyatra will conclude at Ratnagiri on October 31.

“We have started the 16th eco padyatra from Bhubaneswar. Our aim is to promote Buddhist holy places of the State and spread message of protection of environment, gender equality and women empowerment,” said a Buddhist follower.

On the other hand, Panda alleged that despite repeated requests to the Centre, it is yet to include the Buddhist circuits located in Odisha under various central schemes and programmes.

“The purpose of the padyatra is to promote the Buddhist circuits i.e. Ratnagiri, Udaygiri, Lallitgiri and Dhauli located in the State. Though we have written to the Centre several times to include the Buddhist circuits under Swadesh Darshan scheme, no decision has been taken yet in this regard. The State government is trying to develop all the Buddhist heritage sites in Odisha on its own,” stated Panda.

“The BJP-led Centre has always tried to protect and make restoration of the age-old holy structures and sites of the country. I am confident that the Centre would never deny any proposal that will boost tourism,” said State BJP spokesperson, Lekhashree Samantasinghar adding that the Odisha government is always engaged in making false stories.

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