Monday April 22, 2019

Rs 120 crore Krishna heritage circuit to come up around Mathura-Vrindavan

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Tourism ministry is set to spend over 120 crore on the infrastructural development of the Mathura-Vrindavan pilgrimage circuit, a move that will tranfrom the profile of a land where Lord Krishna and his gopis (consorts) are believed to have once romped in gay abandon and is visited by millions round the year in the present day.

The Uttar Pradesh government has announced a Braj Heritage Planning Board to suggest ideas and monitor implementation of projects in the Braj area. The union government has already declared Mathura a heritage city.

Union Tourism Minister, Mahesh Sharma at a function held last week told media persons that a new international airport would be sited along the Yamuna Expressway that links Mathura to Agra on one end and to Greater Noida on the other on national capital’s outskirts.

Stating that a new circuit centred around the cult of Lord Krishna, part of the Hindu Trinity and one of its most beloved personal gods, is being developed from Akshardham in Delhi to Mathura, the minister said Rs. 120 crore would be spent on developing the “Braj Chaurasi Kos” that includes Vrindavan, Goverdhan, Gokul, Barsana, Nandgaon, Kokila Van, Sher Garh and Mahavan areas.

Mathura’s Member of Parliament and Bharatiya Janata Party leder Hema Malini wants the airport to come up at Mahavan in Mathura district on the Expressway. Both the Uttar Pradesh and central governments appear keen to speed up development of the Braj area which draws tourists and Krishna devotees from across the world.

“With so much money pouring in, the profile of the Sri Krishna land is set to change in the coming years,” told Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society president Surednra Sharma.

The region, however, has been facing a tough time in the wake of widespread encroachments and traffic snarls for a long time, giving commuters a difficult time while visiting this place.

The authorities have, however, started initiating strong steps now against encroachments.

A major anti-encroachment drive to clear roads leading to Goverdhan and the district’s Sonkh town from the national highway, ahead of the month-long festival season, has been launched with discernible results.

“We had written so many times to the district administration but there was no result. Now now it seems the process has begun against encroachment,” said Braj Bachao Samiti member Rhais Qureshi.

“Holi Gate, Deeg Gate and Bharatpur Gate areas continue to remain heavily encroached upon. The administration is worried because the annual Mudiya Poonau fair will draw over eight million pilgrims and thousands of vehicles,” according to local activists.

“The Mandi crossing was the biggest bottleneck for thousands of daily commuters. The administrative machinery had been reluctant to clear the encroachments due to political pressure,” the activists alleged.

In one instance, the “anti-encroachment drive was abruptly halted for some time on the Goverdhan crossing three days ago due to a well-connected roadside hotel owner,” a source said.

Denying any such incidents, city magistrate Vinay Kumar told IANS: “We are not afraid of anyone. We demolished the walls and the person who opposed was told in no unclear terms that no one would be spared.”

“The campaign will continue and we will remove all bottlenecks,” he added.

The entire city is dwarfed by encroachments. Thousands of pilgrims who visit Braj Mandal daily have to face traffic snarls for hours.

According to Vijay Kant Katara, of Braj Bachao Samiti, there is not a single crossing in the city without encroachments. “You cannot even move on foot. Interestingly, traffic policemen are never available to manage the movement of vehicles,” Katara.

The situation in Vrindavan is worse, as motorists from Delhi, Noida and Agra headed for Mathura or Vrindavan these days are facing all kinds of problems. Luxury buses are stranded for hours or are made to hold up by corrupt policemen.

District authorities keep experimenting with traffic plans, though the problem remains, said Mathura residents Ashok Agarwal and Pavan Kumar.

-(IANS)

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Tourism Benefits Tribes, Boosts Economies, Creates Jobs for Native Americans

Summer is fast approaching, and with it comes millions of vacationers from at home and abroad

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americans, tourism, economies
This undated photo shows a Yavapai tour guide speaking with a group of visitors to the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation in Maricopa County, Arizona. Courtesy: AIANTA VOA

By: Cecily Hilleary

Summer is fast approaching, and with it comes millions of vacationers from at home and abroad. Travel experts cite growing interest in Native American tourism, “authentic” cultural exchanges with tribes beyond gambling at tribal casinos.

Native tourism can be beneficial to tribes, boosting economies, creating jobs and allowing Native communities to control their own historic narratives. But tourism has its drawbacks, and some tribes have found that pleasing tourists while maintaining their cultural identity can be challenging.

americans, tourism, economies
This September 9, 2018 photo shows dancers at a pow wow, part of Indian Summer Festival, which takes place each year on the weekend after Labor Day in Milwaukee, Wi. Courtesy: AIANTA VOA

In 2016, the most recent year for which there are statistics, 1.95 million international tourists visited U.S. Indian reservations, supporting more than 44,000 jobs.

The American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association (AIANTA), a national organization that helps Native American, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian tribes and communities to advance tourism, projects the number of international visitors to U.S. reservations will rise to 2.4 million by 2020.

“People want to learn the real stories from the people who have lived them,” said AIANTA spokesperson Monica Poling. “So, rather than bringing in a non-Native tour guide to recount a history they don’t have an attachment to, our tribal members are involved in developing and crafting their own stories,” she said.

americans, tourism, economies
Memorial to the 1838 Trail of Tears at the Cherokee Heritage Centre in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. VOA

Some tribes, like the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma, already have well-developed programs that include museums, cultural centers and guided tours to landmarks and historic sites. Cherokee National Day, an annual commemoration of the signing of the Cherokee’s Constitution in 1839, attracts as many as 100,000 visitors each year.

But others, particularly those located in poor, rural areas, are hard-pressed to meet tribe members’ needs, let alone build up tourism.

economies, tourism, americans
In a Friday, July 20, 2012, photo, from the left; Tricia Bear Eagle, Helen Red Feather, Rudell Bear Shirt and Edward Jealous Of Him, all of Wounded Knee, S.D., wait for tourists near the site of the Wounded Knee Massacre on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservati. VOA

Ivan Sorbel, executive director of the Pine Ridge Area Chamber of Commerce, says the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, home of the Oglala Lakota, has much to offer tourists: casinos, visitor centers, a heritage center dedicated to the arts, historic sites and incredible scenery.

“But we don’t have the infrastructure to support big numbers of visitors,” he said.“We have one motel and one casino hotel, but they offer limited beds and couldn’t accommodate large tour groups for overnight stays.”

Expanded tourism, he said, would also strain the reservation’s road system and water supply.

“But given the increasing interest in Native travel, we’re looking forward to growing this sector in the near future,” said Sorbel.

economies, americans, tourism
The landscape of the Badlands boasts a maze of buttes, canyons, pinnacles and spires, with sedimentary rock layers exposed by eons of erosion. VOA

Contrived culture?

Tourism can sometimes have a negative impact on tribes. Some studies suggest that encounters between tribes and tourists may be too brief to significantly change non-Natives’ preconceived notions about American Indians.

Tribes may stage artificial culture by dressing up in inauthentic regalia, setting up tipis or passing off cheap souvenirs as “genuine” Native crafts.

economies, tourism, americans
A vendor wheels her cart of souvenirs before the start of the North American Indian Days parade on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Browning, Mont., Saturday, July 14, 2018. VOA

“If the best you can do is to dress up and show visitors what people looked like 200 years ago, to my way of thinking you have already failed,” said Sara Mathuin, the owner of Go Native America, who for 20 years has conducted small tours in Indian Country for international visitors and says she has “seen it all.”

Many tourists, in her experience, developed an interest in Native Americans through the “New Age” movement.

“They choose what elements of the culture they like and meld it all together to create a religion that bears no resemblance whatsoever to the real Native America.”

tourism, americans, economies
Dancers and a tipi at the European Rainbow Gathering in Bosnia, 2007. New age movements and Indian “hobbiests” have appropriated many elements of Native American cultures and spirituality. VOA

A good tour, said Mathuin, focuses on human similarities, not human differences. Tourists are less likely to appropriate from those they’ve gotten to know personally.

Tourists sometimes cross boundaries or fail to show respect for their host cultures — crashing religious ceremonies, for example, or picking up artifacts.

“I have friends on Pine Ridge who say (some European tourists) don’t even bother to knock on front doors,” said Mathuin. “They just open the front door and say, ‘Can I have a look around?’”

Tourists can also wreak havoc on the environment and strain water and energy supplies.

tourism, economies, americans
This undated photo provided by the U.S. National Park Service shows toilet paper strewn throughout Death Valley National Park, Calif. National parks across the United States are scrambling to clean up and repair damage caused by visitors and storms. VOA

Despite the potential drawbacks, Mathuin believes when done right, tourism can benefit tribes tremendously. And “doing it right” doesn’t require fancy facilities or play-acting.

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“All it requires are people and knowledge,” she said. “In the end, it’s all about the stories.” (VOA)

Cecily Hilleary is a journalist at Voice of America. Twitter: @CecilyHilleary