For Gaurav Kapoor and his family the famed city of Varanasi has been the only abode since as far back as 1868. Yet, it is only his generation that laments about the filth and dirt that abound the river Ganga today. It does flow gurgling along the city like the days of yore and yet is being robbed of the chastity that it once signified. He wonders if Ganga’s self-proclaimed son, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, will ever move beyond the ritual of swearing by it and really set out to the sacred task of actually getting its waters cleaned for good
The frenzy of the 2014 elections triumphantly fought by Prime Minister Narendra Modi hasn't died down as yet. It continues to reverberate all over Varanasi as the noisy gushing waters of the Ganga do in far off Haridwar. Nearer home, or in Varanasi to be precise, it is altogether a different story.
Who can forget those Bollywood-styled lines by our Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, that 'Maa Ganga has called him to Varanasi like no one called him and he hasn't come here himself' (I am paraphrasing his original lines from Hindi). But frankly the state of the river has not got any better under the Modi Government. Like many broken promises that Prime Minister made, Ganga too awaits the accomplishment of so pious words uttered so solemnly by her distinguished son.
Professor Vishwambhar Nath, Mishra who is Mahant or temporal head of the Sankat Mochan Foundation, has recently said that the river needs a lot of attention. Yet, what came as a rude shock for him is that instead of focusing on this task and helping him and others like him in cleaning the Ganga, Government teams were looking for his ancestral home on suspicion of unauthorised construction. His ancestral abode nestles along the riverbank called Tulsi Ghat and it has been there for generations without inviting any Government action through ages.
Pandit Laliteshpati Tripathi, MLA from nearby Marihan, off Mirzapur, says, "The people of this country and Varanasi have realized in 21 months that the Modi Government only creates hype with big ticket showbiz style events. The same hollow nature of it is evident in their Namami Gange scheme."
Led by Ms Uma Bharti, the Namami Gange scheme has been allocated Rs 20,000 crore but evidence of work is absolutely nil in Varanasi. In this period of 21 months since the current Prime Minister represents Varanasi as its Lok Sabha Member of Parliament, no work on closing the nallas that flow into the river has started. There has absolutely been no work initiated on a sewage treatment plan to ensure that sewage is treated instead of its continuing discharge directly into the river.
The hype and hoopla that accompany the Namami Gange project has recently been questioned by the Supreme Court of India when it said it seems this Government wants to clean the river Ganga in 200 years!
All that we, the residents and voters of Varanasi, can hope for is that instead of four boats to carry the dead that have been brought in Modi’s tenure, there will be more substance than symbolism in the days to come vis-à-vis cleaning the river. As we watch the evening Aarti at the Wi-Fi enabled Rajendra Prasad Ghat, we hope the river becomes aviral (flows smoothly) and nirmal (refined) again soon.