How Ambedkar Circuit is good tourism and good politics for the BJP

The Ambedkar Circuit

The government had first proposed the Ambedkar Circuit, or Panchteerth, in 2016. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said the Panchteerth would include Janma Bhoomi, Ambedkar’s birthplace in Madhya Pradesh’s Mhow; Shiksha Bhoomi, the place in London where he stayed while studying in the UK; Deeksha Bhoomi in Nagpur where he embraced Buddhism; Mahaparinirvan Bhoomi or the place of his demise in Delhi; and Chaitya Bhoomi, the place of his cremation, in Mumbai.

With a special AC train, the government is looking to trace the footsteps of Ambedkar in India by giving better connectivity to four of these spots.

The idea is to attract tourists beyond the Dalit community, who mostly visit these places as a pilgrimage. The journey will include meals, ground transportation, and entry to the sites.

Focus on tourism circuits

The government had identified 15 tourist circuits under the Swadesh Darshan scheme in 2014-15.

Besides the Ramayana and Buddhist Circuits, others include Coastal Circuit, Desert Circuit, Eco Circuit, Heritage, North East, Himalayan, Sufi, Krishna, Rural, Tribal, and Tirthankar Circuits. In terms of train collaboration, the Ramayana, Buddhist, and North East Circuits are already active, while Ambedkar will be fourth.

As far as circuit development is concerned, until March 2022, 76 projects had been sanctioned in these 15 circuits at an estimated cost of Rs 5,445 crore.

As per government officials, the creation of special circuits allows them to focus better on the comprehensive development of all sites related to the theme, including infrastructure, road and rail connectivity, and visitor facilities. However, from the tourist’s point of view, not everyone visits all the sites related to a circuit in one go. It is to change this travel pattern that train collaborations have been devised, so that people come on board to
make the entire journey in one go.

Officials in the Ministry of Tourism said that since every circuit involves more than one state, they look at data on the number of tourists visiting specific places on a circuit from time to time.

How train collaborations work

The Union Ministry of Tourism has reserved 3,000 special railway coaches with the Ministry of Railways for the promotion of these theme-based tourism circuits.

Earlier this year, a special 14-coach train was run on the Ramayana Circuit by IRCTC, with air conditioned three-tier
coaches for tourists, along with a pantry car, a restaurant car, and a separate coach for the train staff.

The all-inclusive tour came at a cost of Rs 62,000 per person, and took almost 500 people on board for 17 days. Before that, special trains were sent for the Buddhist Circuit, covering destinations associated with the life of Buddha, and also the Northeast Circuit.

Gradually, the Ministry is devising newer, sought-after routes for these trains. Ambedkar Circuit is one such circuit which has been considered by the government for one of these journeys.

Eyeing Ambedkar’s legacy

Over the last eight years, the Narendra Modi government has hailed and celebrated Ambedkar in multiple ways in an attempt to stake claim to his legacy.

Last week, ahead of the Prime Minister’s birthday, a book titled Ambedkar and Modi: Reformer’s Ideas Performer’s
Implementation was launched, comparing Ambedkar’s vision with Modi’s policies.

At the event, Union Minister Anurag Thakur claimed that Ambedkar had been ignored by earlier governments, and that it had taken the BJP-supported V P Singh government to accord him the Bharat Ratna.

Besides announcing the Circuit, the Modi government has also unveiled a portrait of Ambedkar in Parliament’s Central Hall, while also developing Deeksha Bhoomi as an international tourist centre.

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