Maya Jaal: Buddhist tourist circuit to draw in dollars

The Economic Times, Dec 28, 2007

NEW DELHI, India -- Varanasi and Shrawasti could soon be easily accessible to foreign Buddhists. The government has proposed to link Buddhist tourist destinations with countries like Japan, Thailand and Sri Lanka that have significant Buddhist population.

The move is part of the recommendations made by a study group for preparing a road map for rapid development of country’s second most populous state of Uttar Pradesh (UP).

“Air links may be established between Varanasi, Kushinagar and Shrawasti, which are focal points of Buddhist tourists from several countries. Air-connectivity may also be considered between other religious centres, such as Chitrakoot and Faizabad,” an official associated with the study group said.

The study group, which comprises civil aviation secretary Ashok Chawla and National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) chairman N Gokulram, has proposed to develop airstrips in the state and promote flying schools on a public-private partnership (PPP) model.

The UP government has already initiated the process of setting up flying academies in the state. Private flying institutes have been set up Aligarh, Faizabad, Kushinagar and Sultanpur. The government has also acquired land for construction of airstrips at Moradabad and Azamgarh. The country’s most prestigious flying school — Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Uran Akademy (IGRUA) is situated in Rae Barelley district of UP.

“With large number of tourists, both international and domestic, visiting the state, the government may also consider setting up a university of higher learning for studies in aviation technology and related subjects in the state,” the official added.