Thirty-one years after the demolition of the Babri mosque on December 6, 1992, Ayodhya is all set for the grand opening of the Ram temple. While the construction of the temple is on in full swing, equally rapid has been the transformation of the town itself.
The infrastructure development of Ayodhya took off after the BJP came to power in 2017 and Yogi Adityanath was sworn in as Chief Minister.
In May 2017, months after coming to power, the BJP government merged the municipal boards of Faizabad and Ayodhya and created a new municipal corporation, the Ayodhya Nagar Nigam. The upgrade brought in more funds for infrastructure development from the state as well as the Centre.
The town of Ayodhya was earlier a part of Faizabad district. But in November 2018, the Adityanath government changed the names of Faizabad district and division to Ayodhya. In October 2021, the government announced that the Faizabad Railway Junction would be renamed Ayodhya Cantt.
Various infrastructure projects were launched to improve air, rail and road connectivity to Ayodhya. According to the UP government, more than 200 projects worth Rs 30,923 crore are underway in Ayodhya at present, associated with 37 departments.
A major project is the Maryada Purshottam Shri Ram International Airport, coming up along the Lucknow-Gorakhpur highway. In April 2022, the state government signed a lease agreement with Airports Authority of India (AAI) for transfer of 318 acres of land for this airport. That paved the way for converting a 1,500-metre-long and 30-metre-wide airstrip — earlier used for the operation of small planes and a flying club — into an international airport with the capacity to accommodate 24 aircraft.
Once the Ram temple opens, the administration estimates a footfall of upto 2 lakh on regular days and upto 5 lakh on days with special significance. Keeping this in mind, roads are being built. These include three key pathways: Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Path (5.77-km) to connect Ram temple with Naya Ghat via Sugreev Qila; Bhakti Path (850 metres) to link the main road to the temple via Hanuman Garhi; and Ram Path (12.9 km) to connect Saadatganj to Ramjanmbhoomi.
These stretches were earlier narrow and encroached roads with open drains. Locals who lived along these roads and ran shops here have demolished the fronts of their properties to allow lane widening, and received compensation from the administration. Also, at least five multi-level parking locations are being developed.
To tackle the rush on the Lucknow-Gorakhpur highway, a 65-km outer ring road will be developed by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI). Expected to cost Rs 2,500 crore, the four-lane ring road will pass through Ayodhya, Gonda and Basti districts.
The Ayodhya railway station is being expanded with three new platforms. Landscaping and development of another railway track will be done in the second phase.
The UP Housing and Development Board has planned to develop a “Nav Ayodhya” township on a 1,200-acre area, where state guest houses will be built. Land will be auctioned for hotels while residential plots will also be provided.
The other projects coming up in Ayodhya include sewage system development, water supply project, new power stations, and underground cabling.
Also, while Ayodhya hardly had swanky hotels before 2020, with dharmshalas making up the bulk of the hospitality sector, luxury hotels are now coming up. After Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation of the Ram temple in 2020, these projects picked up pace.
“When the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri mosque dispute was pending in the court, VIPs like chief ministers and ministers avoided visiting Ayodhya. Hence, Ayodhya’s development was neglected. Development started after the BJP came to power in 2017, and further soared after the Supreme Court judgment in 2019,” said a property dealer in Ayodhya.
Job opportunities and more
A UP government official said the rapid development has also created job opportunities, with the city witnessing a huge demand for labourers.
Also, as more devotees visit the city, local youths are making a handsome income working as guides.
In September this year, PM Modi held discussions with CM Adityanath and other officials to develop a temples’ museum in Ayodhya district, to showcase the history, architecture and significance of all the temples located across the country at one place.
Also, the UP government has received requests from various state governments and religious organisations for land to develop their buildings, ashrams and dharamshalas in Ayodhya. The CM has asked the officials concerned to speed up the land allotment process and also ensure good connectivity to the allotted plot.
On the security front, the state government is installing CCTV cameras across the town. Also, a battalion of PAC and a unit of Special Task Force (STF) will be set up here.
Other religious events
Another event that raised Ayodhya’s profile is the Deepotsav celebration around Diwali the Adityanath government started in 2017. The scale of the celebration has been increased every year.
The UP government in its supplementary Budget last month earmarked Rs 100 crore for “Ramotsava 2023-24”. Officials did not divulge details about it. Apart from this, Rs 25 crore has been set aside for the International Ramayana and Vedic Research Institute in Ayodhya. This institute will study the different forms of Ramayanas across the world, along with researching the Vedic era.
A token amount of Rs 1 lakh has also been set aside for the establishment of the Sri Ram Avtaran Corridor, stretching from the Sri Ram Janmabhoomi in Ayodhya to Sri Ram Yagya Sthali in Basti district and to the starting point of Chaurasi Koshi Parikrama Marg.
“The government is working to enhance the grandeur and attractiveness of Ayodhya Dham and make it a world-class city. All these projects have been planned keeping this in mind,” said a UP government official.
First appeared on indianexpress.com