Bringing Swachh Bharat campaign to his Lok Sabha constituency, PM Narendra Modi on Saturday wielded a spade to remove silt deposited along the banks of River Ganga and nominated nine persons, including CM Akhilesh Yadav, to carry forward the cleanliness drive in UP.
Modi arrived at the Assi Ghat where he climbed down three stairs and worked through an uneven muddy track to reach a makeshift stage where five priests were waiting for the Prime Minister to assist him in a special Ganga puja.
The Prime Minister spent close to 15 minutes offering prayers to the river, as hymns echoed through speakers installed at the venue.
After the prayers, Modi, who was accompanied by a few BJP leaders including party president Laxmikant Bajpai and city mayor Ram Gopal Mohale, picked up a spade and began vigorously digging the huge amount of silt that had deposited along the ghat after the rainy season.
Speaking to media persons assembled at the spot, he said that just like the launch of Swacch Bharat Campaign in Delhi on Gandhi Jayanti, he was nominating nine noted persons from UP to take the drive forward in the state.
Besides the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, those nominated by Modi include Bhojpuri actor Manoj Tiwari, Sufi singer Kailash Kher, comedian Raju Srivastava, cricketers Mohd Kaif and Suresh Raina, Chancellor of University of Blind at Chitrakoot Swami Ram Bhadracharya, Sanskrit scholar Devi Prakash Dwivedi and writer Manu Sharma.
After leaving Assi Ghat, where he started off with special prayers to the holy river, he visited a nearby ashram set up by the followers of spiritual leader Sri Anandamayi Maa where he garlanded a statue of the 20th century saint and paid a visit to a charitable hospital in the premises.
The Prime Minister later left for Delhi.
On Friday night, meeting the city’s intelligentsia over dinner, the Prime Minister gave an assurance to them that the sanctity (garima) of Varanasi would be kept intact and that “Kashi would be transformed into a modern city while retaining its traditional flavour, as the world has seen in London and something we had attempted with success in quake-hit Bhuj when I was the Chief Minister of Gujarat”.
He also shared a number of plans for the city’s modernisation which included battery-operated cars as modes of public transport, door-to-door garbage collection and a “Palace on Wheels” train running from Delhi to Varanasi via Ayodhya and Prayag (Allahabad).
The Prime Minister also said that he wants the entire sprawling campus of Benares Hindu University to be converted into a Wi-Fi zone and to ensure that every school of Varanasi had separate toilets for boys and girls besides drinking water.
He also said that he wished to transform the ghats of Varanasi into a major tourist attraction with the help of cleanliness and state-of-the art illumination technology.
Addressing party workers, he had denounced coalition politics by blaming “fractured verdicts” for lowering the image of the country and asserting that India had begun to get its due on the international stage ever since his party had come to power with a complete majority.
“Things like lowering of diesel and petrol prices and government officials reporting for duty on time could have happened earlier. But it took a strong government to make these things a reality,” Modi said.
Modi said his government was sensitive to the people’s needs and hence his party was blessed with victory in Assembly polls in Haryana and Maharashtra, states where the BJP had snapped ties with allies just ahead of elections.
He expressed confidence that the party will emerge victorious in poll-bound Jharkhand and Jammu and Kashmir as well.
On Friday, the Prime Minister had adopted a village under Saansad Aadarsh Gram Yojana and came down heavily on the practice of female foeticide.
Stressing on the need for “greater self reliance”, he had said that villagers should give up the notion that the government is the doer while people were only beneficiaries.
Inaugurating the Trade Facilitation Centre and Crafts Museum, the Prime Minister pitched for giving a boost to the textile sector “which is second only to agriculture in terms of the number of people involved” and announced a package of Rs 2375 crore to revive 16 district cooperative banks of eastern UP which were closed down recently.
Encouraging use of Khadi, Modi said on more than one occasion he was delighted to learn that ever since he gave a call on Gandhi Jayanti exhorting people to buy “at least one Khadi item, however, small it may be” there has been “an 125 percent increase in the consumption” of the hand-spun fabric.