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article imageVaranasi set to get face-lift thanks to Narendra Modi

By Sravanth Verma     Aug 1, 2014 in World
Varanasi - India's Narendra Modi-led government has drawn up a blueprint for the "exhaustive makeover" of the ancient city and religious center of Varanasi or Kashi.
The city has been a center of learning and pilgrimage for several millennia, but in the last few decades, its appeal has been marred by the polluted river Ganga, monuments crumbling and inadequate infrastructure.
Government officials say that Modi recently attended detailed presentations from various ministries, and approved some of the ministries' plans for a Varanasi makeover. The Prime Minister made it clear that what the public is promised should be delivered within deadlines. A statutory Master Plan is being worked upon currently.
The meeting in New Delhi was attended by Laxmikant Bajpayi, the president of the north Indian state Uttar Pradesh's unit of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Varanasi Mayor Ram Gopal Mohle as well as party legislators were also present.
As per plans, Varanasi will be developed into a metro city with a major overhaul of the main arterial roads and transport system. A possible mono rail, and a Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) are also in the offing. Modi is also said to have stressed the need to preserve the "pauranik swaroop" (ancient ethos) of Varanasi, one of the world's oldest continuously inhabited cities.
India's recently announced union budget had also included a significant fund to promote heritage tourism, which is fundamental to Varanasi's future. For Hindus, making a yatra or pilgrimage to Varanasi is an important aspect of their faith. The city is considered as a sacred space sanctified by the God Shiva. Accordingly, several festivals sacred to him, such as Mahashivratri are celebrated with great pomp in the city, and draw a huge number of pilgrims.
"Linking holy places is a step in the right direction. But any step to stop pollution of the Ganga would be futile if you don't stop factory waste and sewer water from flowing into the river," said Swami Narendranand Saraswati, Shankaracharya (religious head), Kashi Sumeru Peeth. Riverfronts have been proposed at the Varuna and Asi rivers, which flow into the Ganga.
The rivers have turned into drains for allpractical purposes at present. Urban Development Minister Nitin Gadkari will be spearheading the plan and giving inputs to Modi. Plans are also underway to evaluate the possibility of raising four satellite towns: Shivpur, Babatpur, Kashi and Sarnath.
State BJP leader Bajpayi said he was "awe struck" at the "level of commitment Modiji" has for Varanasi. Modi won his parliamentary seat from the Varanasi constituency. He visited the city and performed various rituals at the banks of the Ganga on May 17, immediately after winning a majority in the parliamentary elections. A local Prime Minister Office is also likely to be established in Varanasi to monitor the day-to-day affairs here.
"We expect the local office of the PM by August 15," said TS Joshi, city BJP president. "Other that the visual revival of the city, Modi is very keen to make the region a mini-economic powerhouse by giving it infrastructure and trading opportunities," another official said.
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