Amid Prep For Ayodhya Ram Temple Event, A Madhya Pradesh Subplot Unfolds

Since Shivraj Singh Chouhan's announcement of the grand project in 2007, it remained only on paper

Amid Prep For Ayodhya Ram Temple Event, A Madhya Pradesh Subplot Unfolds

The Ram Van Gaman Path passes through several Madhya Pradesh towns


Amid frenetic preparations for the grand consecration ceremony at the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, a Madhya Pradesh plan to develop a Ram pilgrimage circuit has seen some movement after being on the back burner for as long as 16 years.

Chief Minister Dr Mohan Yadav yesterday chaired the first meeting of Shri Ramchandra Path Gaman Trust in Satna. The trust was constituted under former Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan six months before the assembly polls last year that saw the BJP return to power. At the meeting, Dr Yadav said the Ram Bhagwan Path Gaman Marg will be developed in phases.

What Is The Project

Lord Ram, Sita and Lakshman are believed to have passed through several places in Madhya Pradesh after they left Ayodhya for their 14-year exile. These places include Chitrakoot in Satna district, Badwara in Katni, Ramghat in Jabalpur, Ramnagar in Mandla and spots in Shahdol, Dindoli and Amarkantak. Several temples at these places attract high tourist footfall. The state government's plan aims to link all these pilgrimage centres and offer better infrastructure and facilities to tourists. A formal announcement to develop the Ram Van Gaman Path was first made by Mr Chouhan in 2007. He had then said a sum of Rs 56 crore will be allotted to develop the first phase of the religious tourism corridor.

Project On Paper, Not On Ground

Since Mr Chouhan's announcement in 2007, the project remained only on paper. In the 16 years since then, the BJP has been in power for 14, barring the two-year tenure of Congress under Kamal Nath. In 2015, eight years after Mr Chouhan's announcement, the Narendra Modi government at the Centre announced a Rs 13,000 crore Ramayana Circuit project to develop pilgrimage sites linked to Lord Ram. These sites were spread across nine states, including Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Bihar. Soon after, the then Shivraj Singh Chouhan government linked its plan to the centre's project. Ahead of 2018 Assembly polls, the BJP government made a provision of Rs 1,000 for the project in the state budget. The development of the Ram Van Gaman Path was mentioned under the heading of promotion of art and culture. The BJP lost the election and the Kamal Nath-led Congress government came to power. In March, Mr Nath's cabinet cleared a Rs 600 crore project to develop the tourism circuit. But before the plan could move from files to the ground, the Congress government was toppled by a mutiny by a section of MLAs. The BJP returned to power under Mr Chouhan in March 2020. The Covid pandemic kept the tourism corridor plan out of the priority list for the next couple of years. In 2022, the state government approved an action plan for the first phase of the ambitious project. According to the action plan, 60 per cent of the project would be funded by the Centre and the state would sponsor the remaining expenses.

What's Latest

In yesterday's meeting, Chief Minister Yadav said all sites on the Ram Bhagwan Path Gaman Marg route will be developed in phases. "A detailed action plan would be drawn and implemented in phases. The development plan will include infrastructure development and aspects related to creating religious awareness, spiritual development and facets related to Ram Katha," he said.

Dharmendra Lodhi, Minister for Culture, Tourism and Religious Trusts, said that budget allocation for the project will be made during the upcoming assembly session. "Work will start (soon). We will try to bring the best possible budget for the project," he said.

The Congress, meanwhile, has taken a swipe. State party spokesperson KK Mishra has accused the BJP of using the name of Lord Ram only for "political mileage". "What to expect from a government that allocated just Rs 1000 for the construction of Ram Van Path Gaman Marg. They remember Lord Ram just to win elections.