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PM’s e-boat initiative in Varanasi hits rough weather

The 11 e-boats, distributed by the PM to boatmen in Varanasi last year, are anchored at Assi Ghat since July as its solar battery-operated motors have been taken off.

lucknow Updated: Sep 08, 2017 13:24 IST
Sudhir Kumar
Sudhir Kumar
Hindustan Times. Varanasi
E-boat,Uttar Pradesh,Varanasi
Boats anchored at Assi ghat for two months as batteries, motors taken off due to rising water in the Ganga.(HT Photo)

The campaign launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to keep the Ganga pollution-free has landed in troubled waters as the solar-powered e-boats have not been operating for the last two months.

The 11 e-boats, distributed by the PM to boatmen in Varanasi last year, are anchored at Assi Ghat since July as its solar battery-operated motors have been taken off.

While the boatmen claim that the Bharatiya Micro Credit (BMC) – the company that supplied the solar-powered motor and batteries – had taken it back from them, the firm denies the allegations.

BMC officials said they had advised the boatmen to take the batteries and motors off as a precautionary measure to avoid technical snags due to rising waters of the river.

“PM Modi gave us e-boats. We were happy as the boats became quite popular among the tourists, especially foreigners. When the monsoon set in, the BMC officials took away the batteries and motors with them. Left with no option, we anchored the boats,” said Vaidyanth Manjhi, a boatman.

“There are no batteries and motors in e-boats. Sometimes, youngsters operate the boats manually,” he added.

Another boatman, Virendra Kumar Nishad, said e-boats had been running since last year and were helping in reducing pollution caused by the diesel engine-operated boats.

“While the deafening sound of diesel boats affects aquatic life, carbon emitted by engine adds to air pollution,” he said.

“Batteries and motors were taken off by BMC officials after the level of the Ganga started rising. It has been stored somewhere in Kashi,” he added.

Nishad said he spoke to BMC officials who assured him of resetting the batteries and motors in e-boats within a week.

He said charging of batteries along the ghat was a big problem. “Batteries are transported to nearby private chargers. It costs Rs 120 for charging of five batteries together,” Nishad said.

Managing director of BMC Vijay Pandey, however, claimed the boatmen had kept the batteries and motors in their houses.

“E-boats were provided to the boatmen free of cost. They were asked to ensure its maintenance but they are reluctant to do so. As a result, we had to look after the maintenance free of cost,” Pandey said.

“The boatmen are now earning from e-boats. They should ensure its maintenance,” he added.

He said as a precautionary measure, BMC had advised them to remove the batteries and motors as high water level could cause technical snags.

“They have the batteries and now that the water level has receded, it will will be fitted back into their boats soon,” Pandey said.

The Prime Minister had provided e-boats to 11 boatmen in his parliamentary constituency Varanasi on May 1, 2016.

BMC had converted six diesel engine boats into e-boats and bought five new e-boats. The boat generates no sound and sails at a speed of 10 nautical miles per hour.

According to the air quality data released by the Central Pollution Control Board in February this year, Varanasi figures among five most polluted cities of Uttar Pradesh.

First Published: Sep 08, 2017 13:24 IST