Puri has been included in the Union government’s Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (Hriday).
The decision will give a boost to the city’s image, particularly at a time when it is about to celebrate the Nabakalabar festival (change of idols of Lord Jagannath and his siblings in their 12th century temple), which is expected to be attended by nearly 50 lakh visitors from all over the world this year.
Under this programme, the Centre will provide Rs 22 crore as financial assistance for development of infrastructure in the city.
State tourism and culture minister Ashok Panda welcomed the decision and said: “The central government has finally conceded to our demand. Puri was included due to our persistent demands.”
Besides Puri, 11 other cities of the country have been included in the proposed project. These are Amritsar (Punjab)m Ajmer (Rajasthan), Mathura (Uttar Pradesh), Gaya (Bihar), Kanchipuram (Tamil Nadu), Vellankanni (Tamil Nadu), Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh), Badami (Karnataka), Amaravati (Andhra Pradesh), Waranagal (Telangana) and Dwarka (Gujarat).
The scheme was to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Vijyan Bhavan in New Delhi on Tuesday but it was rescheduled at the last minute.
“The programme will be launched on January 21. I can’t comment on the Prime Minister’s engagements on that day. But the Union minister for urban development (M. Venkaiah Naidu) will be present at the event,” undersecretary in charge of the heritage city project of the Union ministry of urban development, Sumit Gathear, told The Telegraph over phone from New Delhi.
While the cities of Puri and Dwarka city have each been allocated Rs 22 crore, Varanasi – the constituency of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi – has received the highest allocation of Rs 90 crore, followed by Amritsar with Rs 70 crore. The money will be spent on infrastructure development in these cities within a period of four years. “The main objective of the scheme is to preserve the character of the heritage cities and to facilitate inclusive heritage linked urban development,” said an official.
The executive officer of Puri Municipality has been asked to rush to New Delhi to attend the inaugural function and also brief the central government officials about projects that could be undertaken in Puri.
Puri Municipality chairman Jayanta Sarangi said: “We have prepared a vision plan for the city that is more than 1,000 years old. The presentation includes the features of annual car festival and the significance of the Nabakalebar festival, which takes place once between 14 and 20 years.”