Op-Ed: Why No Odisha Monument In Centre’s List of Iconic Destinations?

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: Odisha has always prided itself on its art and culture. Temples scattered across the state bear testimony to its great architectural tradition. The sun temple at Konark, a marvel of architectural excellence, has been listed as a UNESCO heritage site. Apart from the Sri Jagannath temple in Puri and the shrine of lord Lingraj in Bhubaneswar, which draw thousands of tourists and pilgrims daily, there are many smaller temples whose architecture and sculpture stand out.

No wonder the people of the state have reacted with a sense of outrage at non-inclusion of any of these monuments in the Centre’s list of 17 iconic sites to be developed as major tourist destinations across the country. State culture minister is likely to lodge a protest with the Centre and even BJP leaders from Odisha are expected to take up the issue with the concerned ministry in New Delhi.

The bigger question, however, is why was Odisha ignored? Is it because state’s tourist sites do not deserve to be on the list or is it a case of deliberate neglect with Odisha not enjoying the same political clout with the current NDA regime as some other states. The latter seems to be the case considering that importance of monuments like the sun temple at Konark, which has already received international recognition, cannot be denied.

Besides Odisha, more than any other state in the country, needs central help to develop its tourism sector which, given the right kind of support, can be a major contributor to the state’s economy. The truth is our state can rightfully claim richness only in two areas—mines and minerals and arts, culture and natural beauty. The second one makes it an ideal tourist destination.

As far as mines and minerals are concerned the major chunk of revenue goes to the Centre with the state perennially complaining about not getting enough from this sector. However, the bulk of revenue from the tourist sites, if properly developed, would go to the state’s kitty. Forget the money generated through the entry charge imposed on tourists at ASI-protected monuments like the sun temple, the real gain to the state is in the form of commercial activities taking places around these sites. Even the eateries flourishing at major tourist sites pay tax to the state government.

So this is one sector of Odisha’s economy that richly deserves Centre’s support if the state has to grow and be counted among the front ranking states of the country. But these days nothing moves without political clout and Odisha, notwithstanding the popular perception about the growing camaraderie between Prime Minister, Narendra Modi and chief minister, Naveen Patnaik, seems to lack that.

Had it not been so union environment ministry would not have dared to grant two-year work extension to the controversial Polavaram project in Andhra Pradesh despite being aware of Odisha’s objections. Much to the chagrin of the state government the move came within days of a ‘cordial’ meeting between Modi and Patnaik in New Delhi. Odisha has lodged a protest but one wonders if it would be heard. State’s protests over the non-inclusion of any of its sites in the list of Centre’s iconic tourist destinations may also fall on deaf ears.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)