From A Correspondent
Shillong, Jan 7: The Centre on Saturday announced a Rs 70-crore package for development of places of worship in Meghalaya under the Swadesh Darshan scheme even as it accused the Congress-led State government of not cooperating with it.
The announcement of this package ahead of the 2018 Assembly election in the State was made by Union Minister for Tourism Alphons Joseph Kanntham.
According to Alphons, projects under the scheme were prepared by M/s Ernst and Young, a consultant appointed by the Union Ministry of Tourism. And altogether 48 places of worship have been included under the scheme.
Prominent among the places of worship included under the scheme that also attract tourists comprise the Catholic Cathedral at Laitumkhrah here, the Nongsawlia Presbyterian Church, Sohra (Cherrapunjee), rtiang Durga temple and rtiang monoliths in Jaiñtia Hills, Jaïaw Presbyterian church here, Balupada Baptist Convention Centre in Garo Hills, Laban glass mosque and Gurudwara Sahib here, besides other churches belonging to different Christian denomitions and temples across Meghalaya.
The Union Tourism Minister also blamed the State government for not cooperating with the Centre to implement this project, which, according to him, was inclusive and meant to bring about religious harmony.
Alphons said that a presentation of the above projects in Meghalaya was made before the mission directorate on Friday. He alleged that the Meghalaya government did not sent any representative to the meeting that was held on Friday even as he suggested that Chief Minister Dr Mukul Sangma may have asked the State’s officials not to attend it.
“We have no answers why the State government is against this project? Perhaps, the Chief Minister has instructed the officers not to turn up. Is it that they do not want the project because they may not be able to swallow the money since a Central agency would implement the project?” he wondered.
However, the Union Minister said that the Centre was going ahead with the implementation of the project. “We cannot wait for Mukul,” he said.
Under the Swadesh Darshan project, a total of 48 places of worship have been identified.
Some places of worship require major works to be taken up like construction of multipurpose halls, parking spaces, approach roads, landscaping, solar lights, stone benches, etc, and the project cost has been estimated in crore of rupees.
Majority of the places of worship, however, require only minor works like illumition, sigge and toilets, among others.
When asked on the timing of the announcement of the project, which came just on the eve of Assembly election in the State, Alphons said governce did not come to a standstill as it is a continuous process.
On being asked whether the package was to divert people’s attention in Meghalaya since the BJP was being termed as “anti-minorities” even as there were reports of attacks on Christians recently in Madhya Pradesh during Christmas, Alphons said one should not judge a party by one incident in a big country. “Such incident is completely deplorable, and we also condemned against it. Before 2014, rumours were being spread that churches would be burnt once the BJP comes to power, but there was not a single incident in the last three years,” Alphons claimed.