Lucknow: The 50 acres of land for the Maitreya project — shelved four years ago — has been transferred to the tourism department to build amenities for Buddhist pilgrims.
The project envisaged the construction of the world’s tallest statue of Buddha in Maitreya avatar in Uttar Pradesh’s Kushinagar district.
It was announced by Buddhist spiritual leader Dalai Lama in 2002 and was taken forward by the Mayawati government (2007-12).
But it remained a nonstarter amid protests by farmers whose land was being acquired for the project. Mayawati’s successor, Akhilesh Yadav amended the plan and downsized it.
In December 2013, the then Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav laid the foundation stone of the project and handed over 202 acres of land to the Maitreya Trust. But the project failed to take off.
In 2017, when the Yogi government was elected in UP, efforts were made to revive the project but the Maitreya Trust could not submit the detailed project report.
After several reminders, the UP cabinet cancelled its MoU with Maitreya Trust in November 2019.
“About 50 acres of land acquired for the Maitreya project in Kushinagar has been transferred to the state tourism and culture department to build more tourist facilities,” said principal secretary, tourism and culture, Mukesh Meshram.
He said that Kushinagar is a popular pilgrimage destination for Buddhists. “Now that an international airport is functional in the district, the tourist footfall will swell further, meaning more facilities like hotels, eateries and commercial shops are required. To make the place interesting, an art and crafts arcade would also be built,” he said.
He said about 150 acres of the same land was provided by the local administration for building the Mahatma Buddha Agriculture and Technological University — the first university coming up in Kushinagar.
Foundation stone of the Agriculture University was laid in July and the process to start construction is underway.
The state cabinet has also earmarked Rs 750 crore for the university which is set to benefit students from 10 neighbouring districts besides bordering areas of Bihar.