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Wednesday, Nov 13, 2019

Development Varanasi, Advantage Modi?

On the face of it, none can deny that Varanasi has seen development, but locals say that the lanes and by-lanes – where the real Varanasi lies – have seen little to write home about.

lucknow Updated: Dec 11, 2018 07:53 IST
Sudhir Kumar
Sudhir Kumar
Hindustan Times, Varanasi
A flyover on Babatpur-Varanasi national highway which was recently converted into four lane
A flyover on Babatpur-Varanasi national highway which was recently converted into four lane(Rajesh Kumar/HT Photo)

It was a special ride for Ashnav Prakash as he rode his bike from the DIG colony in Varanasi on the newly laid four-lane 17.6 kilometre Babatpur-Varanasi highway.

For Prakash, a management aspirant, the transformation of the road, once full of potholes, is reflective of the transformation that has taken place in and around Varanasi in the last four-and-a-half years.

“This road is touted as the gateway to Varanasi, as it connects Varanasi to the Lal Bahadur Shashtri International Airport, Babatpur. It showcases the fast-emerging Brand Banaras to all those, including foreigners, who travel this road to reach Varanasi,” Prakash said.

He says he doesn’t have any political inclination but supports Prime Minister Narendra Modi because he brought a number of development projects to Varanasi and ensured that they were completed on time.

His friend, Suraj Mishra, is equally taken up by the development of Varanasi. “PM Modi has not only focused on improving roads, but he paid attention to improve the overall infrastructure in and around Varanasi. The Multi-Modal Terminal and the Trade Facilitation Centre are perfect examples of it,” Mishra says. He also mentions the heritage lights installed across Varanasi as part of a beautification project in the city.

On November 12, Modi dedicated development projects worth Rs 2,413 crore, including two road projects with a total length of 34 kilometres at a cost of Rs 1571.95 crore.

Later, addressing a rally, Modi said, “Today, the country and Varanasi have witnessed that when development projects are completed on time, it makes for a grand picture,” Modi said and mentioned almost all development projects – from roads to sewage treatment plants (STPs), from next generation infrastructure to transport facilities, from the under-construction City Convention Centre gifted by the Japanese premier to Kashi to the city command and control centre for smooth traffic management, from underground cabling work to the perishable cargo centre and trade facilitation centre, all in the last four-and-a-half years.

Prof Kashal Kishore Mishra, who teaches politics at Banaras Hindu University, says, “The Gujarat model has become obsolete. Modi is aware of that fact. He has tried his best to create a new model of development by ensuring development in Varanasi. With the completion of a slew of development projects, the Varanasi model of development is ready.”

Mishra is confident that Modi will present the Varanasi model before the nation during General Election 2019. A strong reason for going to the public with the Varanasi model is that Varanasi appeals not only to Uttar Pradesh, but also to the nation, while its international appeal cannot be denied.

For many locals like Suresh Gupta, Kashi’s transformation in the last four-and-a-half years is more than visible in the improvement of roads, ghats, hospitals, primary schools, universities and others.

However, social activist Nand Lal Master, who belongs to PM Modi’s adopted village, Nagepur, doesn’t see any massive change in the city.

“This is just a tall claim that there has been all-round development in Varanasi in the last four-and-a-half years. There has been just a bit of improvement in potable water supply and electricity. Potholes on many roads have merely been patched up, while the Sigra-Mahmurganj road is still potholed and broken in stretches. No different is the condition of the Girijaghar Chauraha-Bhelupur road,” Master says.

Sanitation has improved, but the condition of narrow lanes, which attract foreign tourists the most, is yet to change, he feels.

Thirty-four major roads were selected for repair under the Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY), launched by Modi in January 2015 and Rs 100 crore was sanctioned for the refurbishment of the Town Hall, 81 heritage sites, beautification of Durgakund, installation of heritage lights and development of seven parks in the Asi Ghat area.

Divisional commissioner Deepak Agarwal says, “Most of the roads have already been repaired. The rest will be ready by the end of November or the first week of December. Officials of the department concerned have been instructed to ensure that work is completed within the deadline.”

The poor drainage system is another problem which troubles locals. “Drains overflow in our lane as the drainage system is very old. We approached the municipal authorities to find a permanent solution to the problem, but nothing has happened so far,” says Bablu Mishra adding other lanes in the Jangambadi area are facing similar problems.

Unfulfilled promises

Prakash Yadav, a local, said, “PM Modi has failed to fulfil his poll promises. He also promised Kyoto-like development in Varanasi, which remains a dream. He promised that he would ensure Ganga cleaning. Four-and-a-half years have already passed, the cleaning of Ganga remains a promise.”

Yadav also points out how roads are dug up in the name of development work. After laying underground cables or pipelines, the roads are not repaired properly and mud keeps lying on the road till it dries and flies into people’s faces, he said.

Rajesh Kumar Sahani, a resident of Pandey Ghat, points out unemployment which is a major issue for the educated youth. The central government has failed to generate employment as promised. It didn’t establish any industry in the Varanasi region, known as hub of craftsmen, including weavers.

Mahesh Yadav said that sanitation in lanes is deplorable. Much focus is needed. The government constructed 126 community toilets but people can still be seen urinating in the open along the ghats.

Activist Ravi Shekhar says nothing has happened in last four and a half years for the Ganga, though tall promises were made for it. Still drains fall into the river.

The projects

Rs 362 crore: underground cabling work to free old Varanasi areas from dangling power cables

Rs 253 crore: Storm water drainage scheme

Rs 212 crore: Trade Facilitation Centre in Bada Lalpur

Rs 158 Crore: Gas pipeline to Varanasi

RS 111 crore: Lahartara Cancer hospital

Rs 134 crore: Varanasi urban potable water supply scheme phase 1

Rs 208 crore: Multi-modal terminal

Rs 759.36 crore: Ring road first phase completed

Rs 812.59 crore: Four-lane Babatpur-Varanasi road, Part of NH-56

NW-1 a boon for rural economy?

The National Waterway -1 being developed under the Jal Marg Vikas Project (JMVP) will generate around 1.55 lakh direct and indirect employment opportunities, thereby, impacting the rural economy positively.

As part of NW-1 project, the Multi Modal Terminal (MMT) has been constructed on River Ganga in Varanasi.

A senior official in the shipping ministry says, “Waterway-1 will have a positive impact on the rural economy as it is going to create more than 1.55 lakh direct and indirect employment opportunities in the states it passes through.”

The project is expected to create 55,000 employment opportunities in UP and 50,000 each in Bihar and Jharkhand, he added. Also, it will benefit local communities and farmers along the banks of the Ganga.

Modalities of ferry services, small jetties and vessels are being worked out to facilitate the movement of smaller cargo like agricultural produce like bananas, marigold flowers, betel leaf, and vegetables.

Inland waterways Aauthority of India (IWAI) is working with State Livelihood Missions for imparting skill training to youth, boatmen and other community members so that they could benefit from the employment opportunities, an official said.

Ocean Whale Shipping Services Pvt Ltd director Suraj Prakash says, “This project will transform transportation in the region. It will be highly beneficial to industrialists who place bulk orders as transporting by vessel is comparatively cheaper.”

Moreover, IWAI officials also laid to rest apprehensions about the adverse impact of vessel movement on the Ganga on marine life. There would be no such thing, they said.

JMVP aims to develop the stretch of River Ganga between Varanasi to Haldia (NW-1) for navigation of large vessels weighing upto1500-2000 tonnes. The objective is to promote inland waterways as a cheaper and more environment-friendly means of transport, especially for cargo movement.

JMVP is being implemented with the technical assistance and investment support of the World Bank, at an estimated cost of Rs 5,369.18 crore on a 50:50 sharing basis between the government of India and the World Bank. A MMT has already been constructed in Varanasi under the project which entails construction of a MMT each at Sahibganj and Haldia; 2 inter-modal terminals; 5 Roll On – Roll Off (Ro-Ro) terminal pairs; new navigation lock at Farakka; assured depth dredging; integrated vessel repair & maintenance facility, differential global positioning system (DGPS), river information system (RIS), river training and river conservation works.

Operation, management and further development of the MMT, Varanasi is proposed to be entrusted to an operator on the PPP model. Selection of the PPP operator through international competitive bidding is at an advanced stage and expected to be completed by December 2018. The multi-modal terminal and the proposed freight village at Varanasi are expected to generate 500 direct employment avenues and more than 2,000 indirect employment opportunities.

Salient features of Varanasi Mutli-Modal Terminal (MMT) are as follows

First Multi-Modal Terminal on National Waterway -1.

Land: 33.34 hectares.

Cost of Phase-I of MMT: Rs 208 cr.

Terminal capacity: 1.26 MPTA

Start date of the project: June, 2016

Completion date of the project: November 2018

The following aspects of the project are ready for operation:

Jetty: Length 200 m x Width 42 m with berthing and mooring facility.

2 Mobile Harbour Cranes