The ‘destinations’ page of the Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation (BSTDC) official website (http://bstdc.bih.nic.in) lists 12 sites that constitute the ‘Gandhi circuit’ for tourists visiting Bihar.
Yet, just months ahead of the proposed centenary celebrations of Mahatma Gandhi’s ‘Champaran Satyagrah’, an epoch-making event during India’s freedom struggle, even top officials of the BSTDC seem to be ‘unaware’ that the circuit is alive, even if not kicking.
“The department is preparing a Gandhi circuit as a part of the centenary celebrations of the Champaran Satyagrah. But it’s still in an initial stage. The department is considering names to be listed in the circuit,” said BSTDC general manager Rakesh Mohan.
The corporation would create tour packages once the circuit took a final shape, Mohan told HT, adding, “It seems things did not take off as there have been few queries for the sites related to Gandhi”.
The observations of the top tourism official provide some indication how low a rating Gandhiji enjoys in the officialdom of Bihar, so far as the great man’s potential to attract tourist to the play fields of the some of the greatest events in India’s struggle for independence.
Though a Gandhi circuit has been around for more than a decade, neither any tour packages for the circuit were created, nor the tourist amenities were developed at any of its sites. No wonder, officials, are in a denial mode about its very existence.
About Rs 100 crore was provisioned in the union government’s budget in 2013 while in 2015 the ministry of tourism had allocated Rs 50 crore for the Gandhi sites’ development under the Swadesh Darshan scheme.
Even the state government has initiated steps to develop these sites and to celebrate the occasion.
But, for now, most of the places where Gandhi spent time during the Champaran Satyagrah, talking to the indigo farmers, discussing their plight with the Indigo planters and fought for their freedom, are still largely unknown.
About the tourist amenities at the Gandhi circuit sites, Umashankar Prasad, tourism director, said some development plans had been chalked out but things were yet to take shape. Prabhat Bhushan, another official, said tour packages for Gandhi sites had yet to be created.
Razi Ahmad, director, Gandhi Sangrahalay, Patna, said most of the places related to Gandhi and his Satyagrah had remained just the way they were at the time of the Independence of the country.
“Nothing has changed since then. Rather, things have deteriorated. In the 1970s, a marble plaque carrying details about Gandhiji’s visit and stay at the villages of Champaran, was installed on the main road on Motihari- Raxaul route. But it disappeared a few years ago”, he said.
There was not even any signage indicating significance of any Gandhi site, he added.
Brajkishore Singh, secretary, Gandhi memorial pillar and museum, Motihari, said nothing much had been done at Bhitiharwa Ashram, where Gandhi had stayed during the Champaran Satyagrah.
“Only the pictures of Gandhi and other Champaran movement leaders have been put in a systematic manner in the almirahs. Earlier these were on Ashram walls,” he said. Besides, its canteen has been renovated and a guesthouse has been constructed.
But not work has been done at Hazarimal Dharmashala as its matter is in court and other sites are still waiting to be developed, he added.
Gandhi circuit sites
Motihari (East Champaran) was the first laboratory of Gandhian experiment in satyagraha and has been the spring board for the country’s Independence Hazarimal Dharamshala, Bettiah (West Champaran) used to be the epicentre of Satyagraha. It’s also one among state protected monuments
Bhitiharwa Ashram (West Champaran), a place in Gaunaha block, where Mahatma Gandhi had stayed during the Champaran Satyagrah in 1917. It used to be an important centre of activities
Brindaba (West Champaran) is a small village in Champatia block which was visited by Gandhiji
Shri Rampur (West Champaran), in the Gaunaha block of Bhitiharwa Panchayat, is a village where Gandhiji had stayed on November 16, 1917
Koeldih (West Champaran), under Gaunaha Block in Belwa Panchayat. Gandhiji had visited this place also on November 16 1917
Amolwa (West Champaran) under Gaunaha block in Majharia Panchayat, where Gandhiji spent a night on April 27, 1917 with his other companions
Murli Bharhawa (West Champaran) was the native place of Pandit Raj Kumar Shukla who took a lead role in bringing Mahatma Gandhi to Champaran
Sariswa (West Champaran) is in a place where Gandhiji and his companions had taken statement of the raiyats in an open yard in front of a temple
Hardiya Kothi (West Champaran) used to be the house of G P Edward, a British Indigo planter
Sadaquat Ashram in the state capital is the place where Gandhiji stayed before leaving for Champaran
Gandhi Sangrahalay, in the state capital has a huge collection of items and artifacts related to Mahatma Gandhi and his Satyagrah movement.