Even as the central government has announced to promote Kurukshetra globally as a major heritage centre, Kurukshetra Development Board (KDB) has failed to check unauthorised commercial activities at Jyotisar, the place where Lord Krishna is believed to have delivered the sermon of Bhagavad Gita.
The area around the ancient banyan tree here, which is said to have germinated from the prop roots of the legendary tree, has been converted into makeshift shops of unauthorised photographers.
It is alleged that a nexus between KDB and a few local influential persons have facilitated the illegal shops here to go unchecked.
Located along the Kurukshetra-Pehowa road, Jyotisar is the most visited place of this holy city.
Haryana governor Kaptan Singh Solanki is the ex-officio chairman of the KDB, while chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar is vice-chairman of the board, which was constituted to look after various tirthas (pilgrimages) located in 48-km radius of the historic Kurukshetra.
Even as many officers of the Indian Administrative Services (IAS) and the Haryana Civil Services (HCS) are members of the high-profile KDB, it has miserably failed to check unwanted activities at this ancient site, which is visited by followers of all faiths.
LENSEMEN SET SHOP AROUND LEGENDARY TREE
Moreover, nearly a dozen commercial photographers have set up workstations right next to the legendary banyan tree.
After Hindustan Times highlighted the issue on December 11 last year, then KDB chief executive officer (CEO) Subhita Dhaka had directed the staff concerned to not let the holy premises at Jyotisar be misused for commercial activities.
Though the KDB had installed iron grills around the tree for its conservation programme, the photographers have come up in a more organised manner around the tree.
HT found that the photographers have encroached area right next to the tree-protection arrangement, which has also been used for meditation. The area has been converted into a temporary photographic studio.
The office of the KDB CEO is located about 10 km from here at Brahma Sarovar, but the authorities have failed to take note of the developments.
Encroachers have installed portable photo-printers and other photographic devices and they create nuisance on the arrival of visitors here.
Disapproving of the commercial activity, visitors feel that such activity is a great hurdle in maintaining the sanctity of the shrine.
"It is very unfortunate that Jyotisar has been converted into an ordinary tourist spot. People of various faiths consider the birthplace of Bhagvad Gita as a spiritually significant place. But the authorities have allowed commercial activities here," said Nawal Kishore of Raigarh in Chhatishgarh.
The district officials said that a section of KDB officials had given patronage to the encroachers.
KDB CEO Pooja Bharti told Hindustan Times on Sunday that she was aware of a few photographers working without permission at Jyotisar.
"No one is allowed to carry on any commercial activity at the tirtha and I am not aware that a large group of photographers are encroaching the area near the tree. We will take action if some complains about it," said Bharti.
However, she added that the KDB was contemplating on issuing permits to professional photographers but modalities in this regard were yet to be formalised.