While most Asian countries celebrated the 2,600th anniversary of Lord Buddha’s enlightenment on Sunday, Buddhist monuments in India are in shambles. State governments have not bothered to preserve or restore the heritage sites and monuments.
There are around 300 heritage monuments of Buddha across the country, out of which 53 are in Madhya Pradesh, followed by Andhra Pradesh (43), Maharashtra and Orissa (28 each), Gujarat (20), Bihar (17), J &K (18), Haryana (14), Himachal Pradesh (12), Tamil Nadu (11), Kerala (10), Sikkim (9), West Bengal (9), Karnataka (8), Uttar Pradesh (7), Chhatisgarh (5), Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura (2 each) and Uttarakhand and Punjab (one each).
A Haryana-based NGO -Buddhist Forum — which is associated with promotion of ancient Buddhist sites and monuments across Asia has conducted a study by procuring information under Right to Information Act, on the neglected state of Buddhist monuments in the country. The NGO came out with startling figures which show that none of the states have shown any seriousness in saving the existing Buddhist monuments.
The figures show how the state of J&K (from 1990-2011), has spent just Rs 2.57 lakh on a single site in Parhaspora Pattan, Baramulla. The annual budget for the single heritage site, out of the total 18 such sites existing in J&K, has decreased from Rs 93,600 in 1998-99 to Rs 3,570 in 2008-09.
The condition is even worse in one of the most sought after tourist destinations in the country — Himachal Pradesh, which is also considered the second home of Tibetan Buddhism. The state has not spent anything on Buddhist sites in the last 21 years.
Things are slightly better in Haryana, which has listed three sites — Chaneti stupa and Sugh mound in Yamunanagar and Kurukshetra stupa located in Kurukshetra University. From a budget of Rs 27 lakh in 1990-91, state has increased it to Rs 181.85 lakh in 2011. The Chaneti stupa alone, the only Asokan stupa in North India, received Rs 75,84,448 in December 2005 to March 2010. Yet, encroachments by local residents around the sites are increasing and Haryana has not spent a single penny on promoting these sites as tourist destinations.
In its reply under RTI, Rajasthan mentioned that none of the buddhist sites and monuments in its territory have been listed by the government and thus no expenditure has been incurred for their restoration, maintenance and promotion.
The government of Uttar Pradesh replied that no initiative regarding Buddhist monuments has been taken in the past 21 years and added that the state has not kept any provision in the budget for such sites.
While talking to The Indian Express, Sidhartha Gauri, who heads Buddhist Forum, said: “Our NGO has been working to restore, preserve and promote Buddhist monuments and sites across Asia. But, state governments in India have developed a lackadaisical approach and have not taken enough initiatives. We have got support from Buddhist followers across the world, but our own country continues to neglect such heritage sites.”