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The Union Minister of State for Tourism (Independent Charge), Culture (Independent Charge) and Civil Aviation, Dr. Mahesh Sharma held consultations with the Members of Parliament (MPs) from UP, Bihar and Ladakh to discuss modalities for developing the Buddhist Circuit. The meeting was attended by those MPs whose constituencies have important Buddhist sites which can be developed under the Buddhist Circuit identified under the new Swadesh Darshan Scheme of the Union Ministry of Tourism.

Addressing the MPs, Dr Mahesh Sharma said that the Prime Minister, Sh. Narendra Modi attaches utmost importance to the development of theme based circuits in the country, and especially the Buddhist Circuit. The Minister said that the opinion of the MPs is very valuable, keeping in mind the local requirements and ground realities of these constituencies falling under the Buddhist Circuit .

Buddhist Circuit is one of the five circuits identified under the Swadesh Darshan scheme of the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India and Rs. 120 crore have been allocated this year for the development of the Buddhist Circuit under the Scheme, the Minister said. The Buddhist circuit will include places like Gorakhpur, Kushinagar, Sarnath, Sidharth Nagar, Sant Kabir Nagar, Shrawasti, Piprawa, Bodh Gaya, Vaishali , Nalanda among others.

The MPs highlighted the economic benefits of developing the Buddhist circuit. They estimated that the number of tourist visitors can be easily increased to ten lakhs if the Circuit is developed properly, which will help the country to earn Rs 6000 cr of foreign exchange. The inflow of foreign tourists will not only lead to increased inflow of foreign exchange earnings of India , but will also generate large amount of employment for the local people, especially in areas where there are no other avenues of employment for the local people.

The participants discussed the importance of their areas where various events and activities related to Lord Buddha had taken place. They requested the Minister to develop a special Museum where the centuries old statue of Lord Buddha, all artefacts and various other objects related to Buddhism can be placed at a single location in the Buddhist Circuit for the tourists to view. The MPs also suggested that an inter-ministerial group should be formed for the development of the circuit as it involves coordination and cooperation of various Ministries like civil aviation, roads and highways among others.

Dr. Mahesh Sharma assured the MPs that the Ministry will work closely with them for the development of Buddhist Circuit and a wholistic approach will be adopted to give a new shape to the Circuit. The Minister also said that end- to -end tourism is the aim of the Ministry of Tourism where any tourist coming to visit Buddhist Circuit will land at a point and will be taken to various places during his journey of the Buddhist Circuit.

Dr Mahesh Sharma said that India is privileged to have 7 important sites out of 8 in the world related to the life of Lord Buddha. A 2-3 minute film can also be shown at each of the monuments to bring out the history and significance of that place, he added. The Minister said that the Circuit is the means to reach the destination and the destination is already there but the Circuit needs to be developed.