Mathura, 2014.08.31 (DJ): With the unveiling of the BJP government’s first Union Budget on July 10, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced two programs, the Prasad Yojana and the Heritage City Yojana, both of which will have an impact on the Mathura-Vrindavan area. The initial draft of the Heritage plan has been completed and may be put into effect by Deewali.
National Secretary of the BJP Shrikant Sharma said that urban development minister Venakaiah Naidu presented a preliminary list of selected cities under the program to the Prime Minister. Mathura was included in the list.
Included in the plan are five cities other than Varanasi, which has been in the news as the Prime Minister is currently in Japan where he spoke of this program after seeing and being very impressed by Kyoto, a UNESCO world heritage site.
The Finance Minister has set aside Rs 200 crore ($330 million) for the Heritage City Plan over the next financial year.
Under the plan, various development plans are being considered in the economic, social and cultural domains.
The benefits of having been declared a Heritage City will quickly accrue to Mathura as it will to the other chosen cities. Along with this Union Government scheme, the plan includes listing these cities with UNESCO as a world heritage site. As readers of Vrindavan Today will be aware, this is something that has been hoped for by Braj conservationists and environmentalists for some time. See HERE.
One of the expected benefits from the plan is an increased influx of foreign tourists. Mathura is already a site of some interest to Buddhist tourists, but this sector is limited mostly to the Government Museum. After being developed as a Heritage City, this sector may increase in importance. Besides this, of course, there are many tourists connected to ISKCON or the Gaudiya Sampradaya who come to Mathura-Vrindavan who could be benefited by the program.
Mathura is also included amongst sites with a right to funding under the Prasad Yojana. 100 crores ($165 million) have been designated for this scheme to be given to places of religious significance. Of this amount 20 crores are likely to be released in the coming fiscal year. Mathura is also a recipient of other Union moneys for urban development.
Narendra Modi links his constituency Varanasi with Japan’s heritage city Kyoto to launch his ‘smart city’ dream
Kyoto/New Delhi, 2014.08.30 (India Today): One is the holiest city for millions of Hindus across the world, while the other – with its 2,000 temples and heritage – has been the ancient capital of Japan. And Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided to bring the two ancient cities – Kashi and Kyoto – together: so, on Saturday he launched his five-day tour of Japan beginning with the ‘city of ten-thousand shrines’ in the ‘land of rising sun’.
Overseeing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the first day of his tour, the prime minister ensured that Kashi, on the banks of river Ganges, finds a partner in Kyoto, as India’s holy city moves ahead on the path of revival to become the ‘smart heritage city’ – Modi’s fascinating dream to turn his parliamentary constituency into a modern 21st-century city, yet retaining its rich tradition and cultural heritage.
Beginning his Japan tour with Kyoto as the first stop is high on symbolism, but it clearly indicated the prime minister’s firm intent to do everything possible to give the much-needed boost to Kashi. And so, Kyoto comes to Kashi, with all its expertise to conserve heritage, upgrade infrastructure and cooperate in the fields of art and culture. It’s a bond which, hopefully, will get stronger with time, as has been the case with PM Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe.
Like Kashi, Kyoto’s history is spectacular, embellished with heritage. With over 2,000 temples, which include 1,600 Buddhist temples and 400 Shinto temples, Kyoto has a special place for Buddhist pilgrims. No wonder, PM Modi decided to visit not one but two temples here. He will not only be visiting the Toji Temple, as was decided earlier, but he will also visit the Kinkakuji Temple – also called the Golden Pavilion or Rokuonji temple. He will also be the guest of honour at a lunch hosted by the Kyoto Buddhist Association.
“Kyoto is the ancient Capital of Japan. Toji is the oldest temple. The chief priest of the temple Kobo Taishi got several Buddhist texts, including the Lotus Sutra to Japan signifying a strong India connect,” Deepa Gopalan Wadhwa, India’s ambassador to Japan, told Mail Today hours before signing the MoU on Kashi-Kyoto Smart Heritage city programme.
“The agreement provides for cooperation in heritage conservation, city modernization and cooperation in the fields of art, culture and education,” Syed Akbaruddin, spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs, said. Under this agreement Kyoto and Kashi will prepare a detailed roadmap for making Kashi a ‘smart city’, retaining its rich culture, tradition and heritage.
The prime minister and his team will dive deep to understand how Kyoto is a perfect blend of tradition and modern city. A one-hour-long presentation will be made by the Mayor of Kyoto prefecture Daisaku Kadokawa. After that the Governor of Kyoto Keiji Yamada will also call on the prime minister to further discuss how lessons drawn from Kyoto can be implemented in Kashi.
Prime Minister Modi may be representing Kashi (Varanasi) in Parliament but his ‘smart city’ project is not limited to linking Kyoto and Kashi. India is seeking Japanese investment in creation of 100 smart cities across the country. The tone for the PM visit was set by PM Abe who flew into Kyoto to receive PM Modi.
“In the elegant setting of the Imperial Guest House in Kyoto the two prime ministers sat down at a traditional dining table for over one-and-a-half hours for an exceptionally warm and friendly conversation over a traditional Japanese meal,” Akbaruddin said.
At the dinner, PM Modi emphasised the ancient cultural and religious links between India and Japan which are not known widely. “They (PM Modi and PM Abe) felt that the commencement of PM Modi’s trip in Kyoto, the old Capital city and an important centre of Buddhism, highlighted this important spiritual foundation of India-Japan relations,” he added.
PM Abe reciprocated PM Modi’s gesture, saying the relations were important for Japan and the region. He hoped under PM Modi’s leadership India’s economic transformation would gather strong momentum. “An economically resurgent India would be of great strategic importance to the region and the world, and an inspiration for democratic forces around the world,” PM Abe was quoted as saying.
During the dinner at the Imperial Guest House, PM Modi presented PM Abe two of his favourite books – the Shrimad Bhagwat Gita and a specially commissioned and printed book Swami Vivekananda and Japan — Excerpts from the Life of Swami Vivekananda, and Vivekananda in Japan by Swami Medhasnanad.
PM Abe is also to host a special Japanese Tea Ceremony for PM Modi as a mark of respect and personal affection for the prime minister.
Apart from symbolism, the PM Modi is also scheduled to visit the stem cell research centre of the Kyoto University and interact with researchers to understand the cutting edge research and development in the field of medicine.
The real engagement begins when PM Modi will be officially welcomed by PM Abe, and will meet Emperor Akihito. In Tokyo the PM Modi will seek investment for energy and infrastructure projects and hope to make significant progress in the field of defence ties and strategic partnership.