Think of Ayodhya and the first phrase that springs to mind is Ram Janmabhoomi. Private and public enterprises doing corporate social responsibility have also limited their scope of work to this topic as far as Ayodhya is concerned.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath invited corporates to use CSR funds for the Rs. 330 crore statue of Lord Ram at the temple and the upcoming Navya Ayodhya model town. Several companies obediently poured in their funds reserved for social welfare of rural India on the religious statue. No questions asked about the relevance of a place of worship to Nation Building.
Yogi Adityanath wants to develop Ayodhya into a major tourist spot on a global scale. With this aspirational goal in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the UP government has allocated a whopping Rs. 300 crore for better roads leading to the Ram temple. This is in addition to Rs. 140 crore for all-round development of Ayodhya.
The Modi Government announced that donations made to the Sri Ram Janmabhoomi Theerth Kshetra (SRJBTK) Trust will be exempted from tax liability since the Ayodhya temple is a ‘place of historic importance and a place of public worship’. Ironically, corporates and citizens donated crores of rupees for the Ram Temple bang in the middle of the worst economic depression in years and the health crisis of the century. Lives were lost and livelihoods destroyed. These donations could have instead restored the nation from the health crisis we are in.
The UP government is also raking in CSR funding for Navya Ayodhya, which it envisions as a Veda-meets-modern-amenities temple town. In the pipeline is an international airport, more railway lines, a grand four-lane by-pass and a drinking water system. An International Ramlila Centre costing Rs. 3.47 crore, a ‘Bhajan’ site estimated at Rs. 11 crore and a gallery telling stories of Lord Ram that will cost another Rs. 7.59 crore are part of the plan. Rs. 2.75 crore for expanding Ram Katha Park and a whopping Rs. 12.65 crore for beautifying a series of ghats called Ram ki Paidi will be spent in the holy city.
The Dalmia Group plans to use CSR funds to build a hospital and an institute for higher education at Ram Janambhoomi in Ayodhya. Interestingly, head honcho Sanjay Dalmia’s late father Vishnu Hari Dalmia used to be President of the right-wing nationalist group Vishwa Hindu Parishad.
Although CSR in Ayodhya is directed entirely to the Ram Mandir, the temple has brought visibility to the holy city which in turn could improve the quality of life for the dwellers in the coming decades.