Late Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar’s abode of peace in the Aravali Hills could soon be an eco-tourism hotspot.
Spread over 588 acres, the Bharat Yatra Kendra (BYK) in Bhondsi village is a 10-minute drive from the city. Haryana’s forest and tourism departments are planning to develop Bhondsi Ashram, as locals call it, into a tourist destination.
Apart from the late PM’s house, the place is also home to hundreds of bird species and animals, including leopards. The area also has natural drains and lakes surrounded by a very dense green cover. This place was very close to the heart of the former prime minister, who developed the place.
The story of BYK dates to 1983 when then MP Chandra Shekhar set out on a 4,260-km-long padayatra (foot march) from Kanyakumari to New Delhi. Subsequently he set up BYK on 33 acres of a total 52 acres the village panchayat had gifted. Later, the panchayat provided over 500 acres for plantation.
In 1999, lawyer B.L. Wadehra moved the Supreme Court alleging misuse of the land by the BYK. In 2001, a the apex court ordered Haryana government to take possession of the entire land gifted by the panchayat.
At the instance of the late PM, the court declared the entire land a reserved forest for 15 years, in 2004.
However, the forest department took possession of the land from the village panchayat only recently. The panchayat had been maintaining the land after the apex court’s orders.
“Since 2002, we have been maintaining the greenery and infrastructure the BYK had developed. The panchayat has also been bearing the total monthly expense of Rs. 2 lakh to pay salaries of the people deployed for maintaining the place,” said Ajay Radhav, Bhondsi sarpanch.
Haryana chief conservator of forests Som Shekhar too visited the place recently on the directions of forests and environment minister Kiran Chaudhary. The state has also proposed to set up an ecology development board to promote such places as eco-tourism spots.