Union Minister Alphons Kannanthanam on Sunday launched the Sivagiri spiritual tourism circuit with facilities like a craft bazaar, bus shelters and an audio-video virtual reality show and said that the future of Kerala lies in the tourism sector. The inauguration of the much-hyped spiritual circuit around the Sivagiri Mutt was marred by controversy as the state-central ministers sparred over the project.
While Kannanthanam, the Minister of State for Culture and Tourism, asked the state government to change its approach towards the Centre, State Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran said that Kerala was ‘ignored’ in the project due to the involvement from certain quarters.
“This state government had given a comprehensive proposal of Rs 99.09 crore for development projects at Sivagiri Mutt and temples related to Sree Narayana Guru. Just a few days before the sanctioning this amount, due to the involvement from certain quarters, the state government was ignored. The chief minister had criticised the same,” Kadakampally said during his address in the event.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had earlier written to the Prime Minister against the Centre’s decision to inaugurate the spiritual circuit without consulting the state government. The state government alleged that the Centre ignored its proposal to entrust the project with State Tourism Development Corporation.
At present the project has been undertaken by the India Tourism Development Corporation. “The state’s approach must change. We are now constructing walls around us. Instead of lighting lamps, people are confining themselves inside the walls. This is a conservative thought process,” Kannanthanam said, in an apparent reference to the Women’s wall initiative by the state government.
He, however, said that the state and the Centre should work together and praised Kerala’s efforts in making the spiritual circuit around the Sivagiri Mutt a reality. However, Sivagiri sanyasis who spoke during the event said that the Mutt does not have any kind of political affiliation and it wanted the ITDC to handle the spiritual circuit.
Under the total project, Chembazhanti Narayana Gurukulam, Aruvippuram temple, Subramanya Sawmi temple and Mutt at Kunnumpara and the Sivagiri Mutt will be developed. The Sivagiri Mutt will have a tourist facilitation centre, enquiry room, waiting room, first aid, kiosks, cloak room, community dining hall with kicthen and audio-visual hall to be constructed at a cost of Rs 14.92 crore. Other facilities to be developed under the project include tourist facilitation centres, beautification and landscaping, meditation/yoga centre, public conveniences, battery operated vehicles, drinking water facility, multimedia show, wayside amenities, parking, CCTV and Wi-Fi facilities, cafeterias, open air theatre.
Kannanthanam said that the Ministry of Tourism has sanctioned seven projects in Kerala under the Swadesh Darshan and PRASHAD schemes for approximately Rs 550 crore. Kerala’s future lies in exploring the possibilities in the tourism sector.
Sree Narayana Dharma Sangham President Swami Vishudhananda presided over the function. The project was sanctioned in January 2019 for Rs 69.47 crore.