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Sanjeev Kumar Patro

Bhubaneswar: This is a big revelation on why Odisha's historical marvels fail to make it into the Iconic pride list!

It's the Union Tourism Ministry's yardsticks of regional distribution and ease of implementation that together made Odisha lose it out to Bihar in the iconic 17 tourist sites list.

In a reply to a query of BJD MP Sasmit Patra in Rajya Sabha on Tuesday, MoS (I) Tourism Prahlad Singh Patel has shed light on the benchmarks adopted to chose the 17 iconic tourist sites in the country.

And the revelation is Centre has selected the tourist sites on the basis of regional distribution, potential for development and ease of implementation, besides existing footfalls.

Since as per Union Minister Prahlad Patel's own submission, Sun Temple at Konark is in the country's top-5 most visited sites. Odisha's architectural marvel is also grouped among the 5 jewels led by Taj Mahal. And, perhaps, it's the only ancient Hindu architecture to figure prominently in the top-5 in the country. Besides Taj, the other three in the list are: Red Fort, Qutab Minar and Agra Fort. The footfalls in 2018 were a massive 24 lakh.

Despite its towering presence in tourism map, Sun Temple missed out from the 17 iconic tourist sites list, because, Mahabodhi temple from eastern region (Bihar) was selected. In the Centre's scheme of regional distribution, Odisha, thus, has lost out to Bihar.

Significantly, when northern (5 sites), western (5 places) and southern (4 spots) regions grab the lion's share of most iconic sites in Centre's 17 pride list, east and north east could get a each. And Bihar's Mahabodhi temple figured from the eastern region.

While experts here are critical about the eastern region taking a smaller pie of mere one site in the iconic pride list, especially when the Narendra Modi government is emphasising on 'Look East policy' in a big way to build new India, political observers read the criterion 'ease of implementation' emerging as the prime roadblock behind fewer inclusions of tourist sites from east in the iconic list.

The noteworthy mention here is as many Central schemes like ModiCare (PMJAY), PM-KISAN and POSHAN et al faced implementation hurdles in West Bengal and Odisha, invoking the yardstick of 'ease of implementation' the Centre has apparently chosen fewer historical marvels from East in the Iconic list.

The bottomline is Konark's iconic prowess stood sacrificed on the altar of politics.

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