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Transforming Varanasi into a Smart City while safeguarding its spiritual essence: The Modi doctrine of governance

While Varanasi has been looked at as the religious centre of the nation, there was a critical need for providing key infrastructure developments. Such infrastructure developments have not been provided at this scale during the previous government’s tenor.

Varanasi, represented by PM Narendra Modi during 2014, forms a key part of the political landscape of India. In spite of this, infrastructure developments have been too few and unorganized by previous Governments. Under the Modi Government’s leadership, Varanasi is being transformed into a Smart City while safeguarding the spiritual essence of this place. This will ensure Varanasi becomes picturesque, progressive, secure, organized, pure and unified

Importance of Varanasi on the political landscape of India

Varanasi grew as an important industrial centre, famous for its muslin and silk fabrics, perfumes, ivory works, and sculpture. But it is better known as the abode of Lord Shiva, and the spiritual capital of the nation. Varanasi is represented in the Parliament of India by the current Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi who won the Lok Sabha elections in 2014 after defeating Arvind Kejriwal.

Out of eight seats in Varanasi, the BJP and the alliance currently holds three seats. This includes the Congress stronghold of Pindra, from where party MLA Ajay Rai is contesting again. The Samajwadi Party has Rohaniya and Sevapuri seats, while the BSP has MLAs from Ajagara and Shivpur.

Employment and Industries of Varanasi

According to the 2006 City Development Plan for Varanasi, approximately 29% of Varanasi’s population is employed. Approximately 40% are employed in manufacturing, 26% work in trade and commerce, 19% work in other services, 8% work in transport and communication, 4% work in agriculture, 2% work in construction, and 2% are marginal workers (working for less than half of the year).

Silk weaving is the dominant industry in Varanasi. Tourism is Varanasi’s second most important industry.

Projects announced for Varanasi

Until September 2018, Rs. 42,514 Cr worth of projects has been announced for Varanasi.

Amounts of projects announced for Varanasi from 2014 till Sept 2018. Rs. 42,514 Cr worth projects for Varanasi have been announced since 2014. A major chunk of the investments has been in 2014 and 2015.

The announcements included projects such as:

    • Rs 362 crore: underground cabling work to free old Varanasi areas from dangling power cables
    • Rs 253 crore: Stormwater drainage scheme
    • Rs 212 crore: Trade Facilitation Centre in Bada Lalpur
    • Rs 158 Crore: A 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 the first phase completed
    • Rs 812.59 crore: Four-lane Babatpur-Varanasi road, Part of NH-56

Mega infrastructure projects for Varanasi. Expansion of three national highway comprises of Rs. 4,000 Crore of investments. Projects such as beautification of Ganga Ghats project, Varanasi airport to city highway, Cancer hospital and several other infrastructure related investments.

A long list of over 300 projects worth more than Rs 40,000 crore that the BJP has been brought to Varanasi in the last four years. Few of them were recently announced during PM’s tour of Varanasi.

Projects announced during PM’s tour of Varanasi

PM Modi announced the following during his tour of Varanasi in September 2018

    • Inaugurated and layed the foundation stones of projects worth Rs 550 crore. These projects will not only help Varanasi but also the nearby villages grow by making a centre in Varanasi to boost technology and increase knowledge.
    • Development work in Varanasi is being done keeping its tradition and heritage intact. The challenge lies in keeping the image of the city as it is while integrating modern technologies with it.
    • The problem of electricity wires hanging haphazardly has been solved. Now, these wires have been removed from large parts of the city. In other places, the work for underground cabling is progressing rapidly. The foundation stone of the electricity centre is to boost the electrification drive. LED bulbs installed have cut down electricity bills.
    • Road development projects worth crores of rupees are been undertaken in Varanasi. The roads connecting Varanasi to other important places and states are being widened. The work for the Manduadih flyover has also been completed. Many other roads have been widened so that people don’t face inconvenience. The ring road project which was kept pending by the previous government who paid no attention to it, has also been restarted.
    • People coming to the airport of Varanasi are witnessing the development of the city. The number of people flying into Varanasi has increased as has the number of tourists.
    • The beauty of the city has also improved. Ghats now welcome tourists not with garbage but with lights. Not only boats, but even cruise ships can be seen cruising down the Ganga now.
    • Rail connectivity in Varanasi has also improved in comparison to other places. The rail network has been strengthened.
    • World leaders have visited including Japan PM Shinzo Abe. The Pravasi Bhartiya Diwas is going to be a big moment for Varanasi. Each and every local is am an ambassador of this state.
    • For the cleanliness of the Ganga work has been going one where more than 200 schemes worth around Rs 21, 000 crore have been cleared. More than Rs 600 crore have been allocated for Varanasi. Steps are being taken to stop garbage from the cities from flowing into the river.

The focus has been to develop Varanasi and turn it into a Smart City. Tackling Ganga cleaning, promoting tourism, launching cruises, doubling flights, developing infrastructure, developing civic amenities, Urja Ganga project, cleaning the Ghats, promoting entrepreneurship etc.

The smart city development plan for it has been planned on the following principles: ‘Suramya Kashi (picturesque); Samunnat Kashi (progressive); Surakshit Kashi (secure); Sanyojit Kashi (organized); Nirmal Kashi (pure) and Ekikrit Kashi (unified)’.

Purpose of Making ‘The Maha Yojana’

On the basis of the functional relations of various land use by determining the area of adequate land for various land uses under the city limits of Varanasi city, make a rational proposal of various land use in the city as per the nature of the future physical development of the town.

Providing a planned direction for future development by employing unplanned constructions in the present.

Representation of the proposal at different stages for the decentralization of intensive population density and centred business functions of the ancient city.

Give a planned physical nature in accordance with the assurance classification of various types of commercial activities and their support activities.

Provision of future residential and community facilities, utilities and services of different areas for different income groups for balanced development of the town.

Such provision of industrial and commercial areas with the provision of easy and smooth arrangements for the city’s traffic and transport, so that these areas remain in tune with the urban social, economic structure.

Guidance for the future development of the city for Varanasi Development Authority and to specify the proper direction of development programs of private government / semi-government institutions.

For the purpose of maintaining the historic nature of the city, the determination of policies and policies related to the protection of religious and cultural, artistic and historical monuments here. Provision of suitable routes in the present and future development areas of the town.

To prevent unplanned and uncontrolled development in the adjoining areas of the city and town and to provide direction for future well-planned development. The Varanasi Maha Yojana was created for the year 2011. 18449.95-hectare land was proposed for 16,21,000 population in the Maha Yojana. A total of 9614.22-hectare land has been developed until the year 2010, which is 52.11% of the proposed area. The actual favourable development of 8644.72 hectares of land has been contrary to the proposed development of 46.86% and 969.50 hectares of proposed land use has been adverse to the proposed land use, which is 5.25% of proposed land use.

Conclusion

While Varanasi has been looked at as the religious centre of the nation, there was a critical need for providing key infrastructure developments. Such infrastructure developments have not been provided at this scale during the previous government’s tenor. The NDA Government has taken up this challenge and added Rs. 40,000 Cr worth of projects to revamp the entire city.

The Maha Yojana will be instrumental towards establishing industrial and commercial areas in the city, with facilitation for easy flow of traffic. This Yojana will ensure the organic growth of the city, in a planned and controlled manner. All these developments are being considered without hampering the religious fabric that underlines this city. These developments will ensure Varanasi becomes picturesque, progressive, secure, organized, pure and unified.

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Dhairya Roy
Head - Project Management Office (Projects, Corporate Relations and Media), for Minister of Finance & Planning, Forests - Government of Maharashtra.

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