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VHP calls for separate ministry for pilgrimage site development in India

New Delhi: The Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) on Tuesday demanded the creation of a separate ministry for the development of pilgrimage sites across the country.

The affiliate of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) also demanded such a ministry in every state.

Addressing a press conference, VHP central working president Alok Kumar stressed on the need for creating a new ministry for pilgrimage sites, saying they cannot be developed like tourist destinations as they are “way different in nature”.

Various pilgrimage sites and tourist destinations are being developed under the Pilgrimage Rejuvenation And Spiritual Augmentation Drive (PRASAD), an umbrella scheme of the Union Tourism Ministry launched by the Narendra Modi government in 2014-2015.

Under the Swadesh Darshan scheme launched in 2014-15, the ministry provides funds to states and Union territories for development of theme-based tourist circuits.

“Religious pilgrimage sites cannot be developed like tourist destinations because they are way different from each other in their nature. Hence, it is our demand that a separate ministry be created for the development of religious pilgrimage sites,” he told reporters.

Swadesh Darshan is a central sector scheme launched in 2014-15 by the Ministry of Tourism and Culture for the integrated development of theme-based tourist circuits.

The scheme aims to promote, develop and harness the potential of tourism in India.

According to the ministry, the PRASAD scheme focuses on developing and identifying pilgrimage sites across India for enriching the religious tourism experience.

The scheme seeks to integrate pilgrimage destinations in a prioritised, planned and sustainable manner to provide a complete religious tourism experience.

At the press conference, Kumar also reiterated the VHP’s demand for enactment of central laws to control population and put a curb on illegal religious conversions.

He said VHP functionaries have discussed these issues, including the demand for a separate ministry for pilgrimage sites, with a total of 286 parliamentarians cutting across party lines so far under the outfit’s annual ‘Sansad Sampark Abhiyan’ in a bid to build a consensus.

They also discussed with these parliamentarians the VHP’s demand for bringing a central law to free temples from the control of the government in various states, he said.

“We are satisfied that all these MPs cutting across party lines spared time to meet. And, there was a consensus among them on many of the issues discussed,” Kumar said.

On the issue of population control, however, some of the parliamentarians belonging to minority communities felt that enactment of a law would not be a right way to address the issue and any such move will draw “stiff opposition”, the VHP leader said.

“They said the issue of population control should be resolved through advocacy and campaigns, instead of enacting a law,” he added.

However, the VHP is of firm belief that enactment of a central law to control population is the need of the hour, he said.

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