Happy birthday, Modi ji! But Varanasi is yet to become Kyoto

PM Modi fought elections from Varanasi as “Maa Ganga Ka Beta” and promised to transform Kashi into a Japanese city, Kyoto. But four years down the line, has anything changed in the city?

Photo courtesy: Twitter
Photo courtesy: Twitter

Supriya Nidhi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is celebrating his 68th birthday on September 17 in Varanasi, his parliamentary constituency. It has been over four years since Modi became the Prime Minister of the country. But most of his promises—which he made during his election campaigning— are yet to be fulfilled.

PM Modi fought elections from Varanasi as “Ma Ganga Ka Beta” and made several promises in his poll speeches. One of them was to transform Kashi into a Japanese city, Kyoto.

But four years down the line, has anything changed in the city?

Roads and Ghats

Na mujhe kisi ne bulaya hai, na mai yahan aya hu. Mujhe to maa ganga ne bulaya hai,” Narendra Modi had declared soon after filling his nomination papers in Varanasi on April 14, 2014. Here’s what people of Varanasi have to say about self-proclaimed “Maa Ganga Ka Beta”.

“Varanasi gained some prominence on the tourism map of the country due to PM Modi but Kyoto is at the other end of the spectrum when compared to Varanasi. The city has destinations like Durgakund and a clean and active Assi Ghat but the roads are fighting for their existence. Modi’s Ganga still has only dirt flowing through it mostly,” said Bhawna, a travel blogger.

“Places where development was indeed required, nothing has been done. The cows keep wandering on the ghats as they used to, dirt and filth is everywhere and the situation has become much worse. I don’t think Modi will fulfil any of the promises he made when he wanted to get elected,” said a local.

“We have heard that Modiji will pay obeisance to Lord Shiva at Kashi Vishwanath temple. I request and appeal to our prime minister that he should at least try to understand what kind of difficulties devotees face in reaching this temple,”said Priyanka, a local resident.

“We had a lot of expectations from Modi but unfortunately it is all talk and no action. There isn’t much work happening in the city. There are no roads, we felt that this has now become the prime minister’s constituency, so, Kashi will finally become Kyoto. But here, you don’t even know what you are walking on—is it a road or an unending cluster of potholes,”exclaimed a businessman.

Here is a video tweeted by a foreign visitor featuring "Atithi Devo Bhava" in Varanasi:

Kashi’s sewage treatment problem

Varanasi generates about 321.5 million litres of sewage per day (MLD). Sewage treatment plants (STP) can only treat 101.8 MLD, while the rest flows directly into the Ganga through the Varuna and the Assi, two rivers (now effectively drains) that flow across the city, reported The Print.

Many problems afflict the existing STPs, which were commissioned in Rajiv Gandhi’s time as PM. Outdated technology and lack of trained staff are two major ones, as is the interruption of electricity supply, which is acknowledged by the Central Pollution Control Board but denied by the Purvanchal Vidyut Vitaran Nigam, the local supplier.

Vanishing weavers of Varanasi

According to a case study published by IRJET, weavers have shifted from handlooms to powerlooms, power-looms also have their own set of problem—electricity connection is not easily available. Moreover, chronic power shortage cripples the saree production Nearly ninety percent of weavers are unable to pay their electricity bills, which amount to ₹20,000 to ₹2 lakh.

Many families have sold their houses for payment of electricity bills and have gone to the other localities. Ironically, 10% of weavers having power-looms do not have enough money to get a connection—they are thus stealing electricity.

About 70% weavers are living in acute poverty under financially strained conditions, do not have proper education such that even being involved in the profession of weaving they fail to have ownership of their own loom and have to depend on Gaddidars for their grace to provide looms on contractual or rental bases, extracting heavy amounts or labor to pay for the looms.

In many cases, skilled artisans have left weaving and resort to pulling rickshaws, making incense sticks, as agriculture labour, and women are doing domestic labour, serving in their neighbourhood.

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Published: 16 Sep 2018, 12:58 PM