Yogi govt stops funding of graveyard walls

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Finance Minister Rajesh Agarwal in Lucknow on Tuesday.Rajeev Bhatt

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Finance Minister Rajesh Agarwal in Lucknow on Tuesday.Rajeev Bhatt  

Carrying on from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s controversial comparison between “ shamshan and kabristaan ” during the campaigning for the 2017 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, the Yogi Adityanath government, in its first budget presented in the Assembly on Tuesday, has stopped the funding of boundary walls of graveyards.

The 2017-2018 UP budget presented in the House bears no mention of boundary walls of graveyards, which was under ‘Minority Welfare’ heading in previous budgets.

Under the previous Samajwadi Party government led by Akhilesh Yadav, Rs. 200 crore was allocated for the construction of boundary wall of graveyards. In his final budget in 2016-17, Mr. Yadav had increased it to Rs. 400 crore.

Evoking alleged discrimination on religious grounds under the previous SP government, Mr. Modi, during a rally in Fatehpur in February, had said that if a kabristan (graveyard) was being built in a village, a shamshan (cremation ground) should also be constructed.

The overall budget for minority welfare has also been reduced to Rs. 1,695 crore from Rs. 2,029 crore last year. The Adityanath government has, however, increased the funds for scholarship and fees reimbursement for minority students to Rs. 941 crore, while allotting Rs. 18.41 crore for setting up women’s hostels for minority community students in minority-populated areas.

“...for the all-round development of minorities and with the purpose of bringing the minority into the mainstream of the country, efforts are also being made to remove the critical gaps present in the minority dominated areas,” UP Finance Minister Rajesh Agarwal said in his budget speech.

Hindutva bent

The Hindutva bent in Mr. Adityanath’s first budget was also apparent through its focus on promoting Hindu religious and cultural sites under religious tourism and “cultural heritage” with no mention of other historic or heritage monuments such as the Taj Mahal.

The government has allocated Rs. 1,240 crore for the Swadesh Darshan Yojana through the Ramayana Circuit, Buddha Circuit and Krishna Circuit schemes in Ayodhya, Varanasi and Mathura.

The budget also provides Rs. 800 crore to develop infrastructure in the three holy cities under the Prasad Yojana.

The government allotted Rs. 1 crore for setting up a Gita Shodh Sansthan in Mathura. A Krishna Sanghrahalaya would also come up in the city, while Rs. 3 crore has been reserved for a Ramayana conclave.

“Our government has created schemes for the maintenance of the cultural and historical sites as well as to promote tourism,” Mr. Agarwal said.

The BJP government also expressed its commitment to promote cultural tourism in the state by introducing the Lok Malhar and Sawan Jhula programmes in Gorakhpur and Ayodhya, respectively, while also dedicating Rs. 200 crore for a Sanskritic Kendra in Varanasi and allotting Rs. 20 crore for the construction of a Kailash Mansarovar Bhawan in Ghaziabad.

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