The PRASAD programme was introduced by the Indian government in 2014–2015 under the Ministry of Tourism. The phrase "Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual Augmentation Drive" is the full name of the PRASAD programme. Themes that are important for boosting tourist foot traffic in destinations and cities are pilgrimage and historical tourism. Although heritage tourism is built on city-wide experiences that are affected by both tangible and intangible cultural assets, religious/pilgrimage tourism is more of a destination-oriented theme. Integrated city development is required to improve visitor experiences.
Need for the Scheme
Pilgrimage tourism is a major factor in the expansion of domestic travel. The government must develop the chosen pilgrimage locations holistically with the help of other stakeholders if pilgrimage tourism is to reach its full potential. The goal of the PRASAD initiative is to provide a foundation for the growth and promotion of religious tourism in India.
PRASAD Scheme (Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spirituality Augmentation Drive)
The goal of this plan is to improve the religious tourism industry by locating and developing pilgrimage destinations throughout India. For a comprehensive religious tourism experience, it strives to incorporate pilgrimage places in a prioritized, organised, and sustainable way.
The following are the goals of the PRASAD scheme:-
- Take advantage of pilgrimage tourism's multiplier and direct effects on job creation and economic growth.
- Develop the pilgrimage locations using community-based development and pro-poor tourism concepts.
- Using resources and knowledge from the public.
- Develop world-class infrastructure in holy places to sustainably increase their allure to tourists.
- Raise awareness among the local populations of the value of tourism to them in terms of raising living standards, expanding revenue sources, and promoting the general growth of the region.
- Promote local crafts, food, and other specialities to create jobs and a living in the targeted areas.
A Mission Directorate has been established by the Ministry of Tourism to carry out the PRASAD plan. To put this plan into action, the Mission Directorate chooses projects in the targeted cities and collaborates with the states/UTs and other partners. To sanction projects presented by the Mission Directorate, a Central Sanctioning and Monitoring Committee has been established. Also, a National Steering Committee is established for the overall evaluation, direction, and oversight of this programme.
Under the direct control of the city/state government and in cooperation with the public and stakeholders, Integrated Plans (IPs) for the heritage city developments will be created.
Before being submitted to the national Integrated Plan Approval Committee (IPAC) for ultimate approval, these plans would be developed based on the currently existing master plans, city development plans, city investment plans, etc. and would be authorised by the state IPAC. The Secretary of State for Tourism shall convene the State IPAC, and the Secretary of Tourism, Government of India shall convene the National IPAC, comprising representatives from several ministries.
For integrated plans (IPs) for pilgrimage destinations and integrated development of heritage cities, the National IPAC must be the final approval authority to accept the IPs created for holy places and historic cities. To prevent projects from being duplicated, combining efforts from multiple ministries on projects that, if any, would come under the Integrated Plan, and providing a forum for various participating ministries to share ideas and offer mid-course modifications, as necessary.
The eligible project components for receiving the Central Financial Assistance under the scheme are as follows:-
- Infrastructure Development- construction of passenger terminals for modes of transportation such as rail, road, air, and water. Centres for interpretation and information on tourism that include money exchange desks or ATMs. Facilities for emergency car repair, breakdown, and refueling are available at roadside conveniences, informational and directional signs. Landscaping, earth filling, water fountains, lighting, fences, pavements, trash cans, seating/shelters, drinking water spots, etc. are examples of general improvements. External infrastructures include highways, sewers, and water and drainage systems. Historic building and monument preservation, restoration, and illumination. Facilities for first assistance, restrooms, waiting spaces, and cloakrooms. Communications are improved because of phone booths, mobile services, internet access, and Wi-Fi hotspots.
- Capacity Development, Skill Development and Knowledge Management- Programs like "Earn While You Learn" and "Hunar Se Rozgar Tak" offer short-term skill development and training. Expanding the scope of training programmes in travel and hospitality and involving providers of vocational training. Focus is placed on utilising local talent and craft-related knowledge. The recording and maintenance of tourism's knowledge base for future use.
- Online Presence- GIS-based interactive and intelligent portal development and mobile applications. Project management system. Permission-based knowledge portal. Data analysis and reporting.
The inadmissible project component under the scheme that is not eligible to receive assistance are Land acquisition for development, resettlement and rehabilitation package, operation, maintenance and management of the assets created, and Improvement or investments in assets or structures owned by private entities.
With the assistance of the states and other parties, the Ministry of Tourism chooses the locations for the pilgrimages. Amritsar (Punjab), Kedarnath (Uttarakhand), Mathura (Uttar Pradesh), Ajmer (Rajasthan), Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh), Gaya (Bihar), Kamakhya (Assam), Dwaraka (Gujarat), Puri (Odisha), Amaravati (Andhra Pradesh), Kanchipuram(Tamil Nadu), and Velankanni (Tamil Nadu) are the cities identified under the Scheme.
The Prime Minister officially opened several projects at Somnath, Gujarat in 2021 that was funded by the PRASAD programme and cost more than Rs 47 crore in total. In 2022, the President of India officially broke ground on the Telangana project titled "Development of Pilgrimage Facilities at Bhadrachalam Group of Temples."
- Speaking with local stakeholders and landowners about the proposed use of the property or further negotiating a contract for the property.
- Ensuring an eco-friendly strategy by determining the nearby infrastructure that is an impediment, such a site's general design may be completed.
- Setting up appropriate public funding arrangements as necessary, using resources including public sector and private sector finances.
- The project hasn't been up to par despite the Government of India putting in a lot of effort and spending about 100 crores of the 1840 crores budget designated for the Ministry of Tourism.
- A legislative committee was established in 2018 to carefully examine PRASAD's performance, and it was discovered that the scheme's conception is utterly flawed and requires a thorough reexamination.
- The committee also noted that, even after three years of execution, the project is not succeeding.
For the purpose of developing tourism at certain locations, the Ministry of Tourism offers State Governments Central Financial Aid (CFA). The Central Government will contribute 100% of the funds needed for components covered by public funding under this programme. It also tries to include corporate social responsibility (CSR) and public-private partnerships (PPP) for the project's increased sustainability.
With an emphasis on livelihoods, skills, cleanliness, security, accessibility, and service delivery, the PRASHAD project presents a fantastic chance to carry out infrastructure enhancements at the significant pilgrimage and historical locations and towns.
In contrast to vacation and leisure tourism destinations, which are predominantly marketed to the segment with a propensity to travel and spend, religious tourism destinations are not generally aimed at this group. Community involvement in the chosen location/destination is crucial when creating a religious tourism package. This plan has a great chance of growing religious centres and raising employment rates in certain areas if it is carried out well.