CHANDIGARH: While most Asian countries are planning to exploit the occasion of 2,600 years of enlightenment of Buddha, seven Indian states having Buddhist heritage have not spent anything substantial to tap tourists from Buddhist-majority Asian tiger economies and China, during the last two decades .
RTI data collected by Yamunanagar-based Buddhist Forum, working for preservation for Buddhist sites across South Asia, has revealed that except for Archaeological Survey of India in a few cases, states having Hindu, Sikh and Muslim majorities, on their own have not made any effort to tap the potential.
The Buddhist Forum’s main force, Sidhartha Gauri, told The Times of India that Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, New Delhi and Rajasthan were asked 12 questions related to how much they spent on protection, excavation, preservation, fencing, security, tourism promotion and propagation, providing toilets, drinking water, pathways and lighting of ancient Buddhist sites between 1990 and 2011 under each individual state’s jurisdiction.
The forum also sought information on how much of total budget was spent on all sites under each state, the listing of such sites, expenditure on exploration, documentation of loose sculptures and research in various institutions.
The shocker of information came from Uttar Pradesh, till recently ruled by a Buddha admirer-chief minister Mayawati, saying that no site was found under state jurisdiction despite the fact that Mathura’s Gobindnagar appears to be a site under state’s jurisdiction. The state did not spend even a single rupee on this count.Gauri, however, showed the picture of a signboard declaring that Gobindnagar site is under state archeology department and a fine of Rs 5,000 may be slapped if somebody is found causing harm to the site. Regions of Uttar Pradesh had played important roles in spread of Buddhism as Buddha delivered his first sermon at Sarnath near Banaras.
Bihar, where Buddha got enlightenment 2600 years back, has failed to protect, maintain, promote and equip three sites under its jurisdiction. Taradih site, close to Bodh Gaya temple, is a picture of utter neglect to the extent that it has become a waste dump site. Similar is the position of Parvati Hills site.
Punjab, Himachal, Delhi and Rajasthan have drawn a blank in terms of spending money on these twelve counts. Rajasthan said it did not have any site, but failed to carry out any exploration at Kama and Au sites. Punjab handed over Sanghol site to Archeological Survey of India in 2000.
The only states that spent some money on Buddhist sites are Haryana and Jammu and Kashmir. Haryana spent Rs 75,84,448 between 2005 and 2010 for preserving Chaneti stupa in Yamunangar district, but could not even stop encroachment of a site where a great culture of Sugh flourished at the time of Buddha. The state did not promote its Buddhist heritage and failed to undertake exploration at Aherwan, Badhas, Amin, Sandhay and Mewat.
Jammu and Kashmir has spent just Rs 2.57 lakh on Parhaspora Pattan site in Baramulla district and the budget came down to just Rs 3,500 in 2008-2009. There are many unattended sites in the state.The apathy of states towards Buddhist heritage is surprising in the wake of the fact that the enlightenment event could have been used by India, where Buddha achieved liberation, instead of Thailand and Sri Lanka cashing on the biggest event in the history of Buddhism. As per a UN estimate, around 300 million to 330 million people across the globe go on religious tourism and Asia is best placed to benefit from it.