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Google rumored to be part of Modi's vision for Varanasi

Posted Aug 10, 2014 by Sravanth Verma
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's plan to develop the city of Varanasi into a cultural and heritage hub seems to have entered high gear with his "Kashi Vision," which according to rumors, will pull in tech giant Google.
Hindu priests performing puja at the River Ganges in Varanasi  India. © Photographer.
Hindu priests performing puja at the River Ganges in Varanasi, India. © Photographer.
Narendra Modi won his Indian parliamentary election in May 2014, from Varanasi with a massive majority. His plan to revitalize the ancient city is engaging professionals and consultants who are identifying tourism hotspots, beautification and landscaping.
The city suffers from inadequate infrastructure with congested roads, blocked drains and garbage piled up on the streets making an unseemly sight of one of India's holiest cities. The PM had already discussed the possibility of using social media to promote cleanliness and governance with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg during her visit to India July.
Google declined to comment on the rumors but a spokesperson said, "As part of our ongoing initiative with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to bring India's national monuments online, we continue to explore opportunities to collaborate further. We have nothing more to share at this point."
According to sources who have attended meetings with Modi on this issue, he has stressed the need to preserve Varanasi's "pauranik swaroop" or ancient ethos. Varanasi is also known as Kashi, the city of light, and is a holy city for the Hindu deity Shiva. The Kashi Vishwanath temple, one of the most sacred temples in India, is located here, as is the Manikarnika ghat, where hundreds of corpses arrive every day for cremation. According to the Hindu scriptures, cremation in Kashi guarantees the soul mukti or liberation from the cycle of birth, death and rebirth.
"The survey and makeover of ghats along the Varuna river on which the old city stands has started and is likely to get over soon," says Varanasi Development Authority secretary SR Mishra. "They are being modelled on the Sabarmati river front development."
Modi has also asked the municipality to go ahead with a clean-up drive. He is also said to be enthusiastic about establishing a tourist help center, upgradation of the local airport and visas on arrival in the next few months.