The 594-kilometre, six-lane Ganga Expressway, the second longest in the country, that will connect Meerut and Prayagraj was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Shahjahanpur on 18 December, 2021. The inspiration behind the expressway is the vision of Modi to provide fast-paced connectivity across the country. The expressway will be built at a cost of over Rs 36,200 crore. It will start from near the Bijauli village in Meerut and will extend till near the Judapur Dandu village in Prayagraj. The expressway will reduce the time travel time to seven hours between Delhi and Prayagraj.
A 3.5-kilometre air-strip for assisting emergency take-off and landing of Air Force planes will also be constructed on the expressway in Shahjahanpur. An industrial corridor is also proposed to be built along the Ganga Expressway, which will give a fillip to multiple sectors including industrial development, trade, agriculture, tourism, etc. Needless to add, it will provide a big boost to the socio-economic development of the region, underlining the massive infrastructure push by the Modi government in its stated goal to become a $5trillion economy.
Besides the Ganga Expressway, Modi also inaugurated the first phase of the Rs 339 crore Kashi Vishwanath Corridor project connecting the Kashi Vishwanath temple with the Ganga ghats, in what was a “historic day” for the holy city of Varanasi and the country. Before inaugurating the corridor, Modi greeted the labourers who were involved in the construction of the project with flowers and even shared a meal with them, thereby cutting through the “classist” mindset prevalent among erstwhile regimes. Don’t forget that India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru had in the summer of 1951 actually admonished the then President, Dr Rajendra Prasad, who wanted to attend the grand inauguration ceremony at Somnath temple. Nehru chided Prasad, accusing the latter of engaging in Hindu revivalism.
The restoration of Kashi Vishwanath Dham is, therefore, a resurrection of all that Hinduism, aka Hindutva, stands for in terms of inclusivity and beyond. Modi is not apologetic about his Hindu credentials and rightfully so. Be it foundation stone laying ceremony of Ram Janmabhoomi, the beautification of the Somnath temple, the restoration of Kedarnath Dham, or freeing Char Dham in Uttarakhand from government control, the BJP and the Modi government have never shied away from espousing the cause of Hindu dharma. Those who accuse Modi of espousing the majoritarian cause conveniently forget the rampant minoritarianism that has been propounded persistently for decades together by successive Congress regimes, right from throwing lavish iftar parties to making a mockery of Hinduism by denying the very existence of Lord Ram and Ram Sethu, which have been integral to Hindutva.
The Kashi temple’s area has been expanded to a massive five lakh square feet. Maratha queen Ahilyabai Holkar had helped rebuild the Kashi Vishwanath temple in 1780, after it was repeatedly destroyed during Mughal rule. Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab had helped in gold plating and beautifying the temple in 1833.
Restoring Kashi Vishwanath Dham to its earlier glory is one of the biggest testimonies to how the Modi government is unshackling India from its erstwhile colonial legacy. The new complex is a reflection of our capability, of our duty. It shows that nothing is impossible if one is determined. It took a tall leader of the stature of Modi to finally restore India’s glorious heritage after successive regimes failed to do so. The Congress, which ruled India for the longest time, only paid lip service to the cause of our great saints, seers, temples and monuments.
Kashi Vishwanath Corridor is not just about reviving our rich heritage and holy pilgrimage sites, but also about continuing with modern development projects that will pave the way for growth, with an eye on the future.
Work has been done to beautify the Somnath temple; a modern optic fiber cable network is being laid under the sea. While the Ayodhya temple is being built, at the same time, several new medical colleges are also being opened in adjoining districts. And while the Kashi Vishwanath Dham project has been completed, crores of pucca houses for the poor are also being built in the region. Hence the Modi mantra is both about development and reclaiming our pristine legacy of yore. Cleanliness, innovation and continuous efforts for an aatmanirbhar Bharat are the things that Kashi Vishwanath Corridor amplifies in more ways than one.
Over 40 start-up unicorns, each valued above Rs 7,000 crore, that have been created by Indian youth in the last year or so, reflect the great potential that India has, something Modi highlighted during his engagements at Kashi. The whole new complex of Baba Vishwanath Dham is not just a grand building, but also a symbol of the Sanatan culture of India. It is a symbol of our spiritual soul, it is a symbol of India’s antiquity and traditions. Prime Minister Modi’s desire to restore Kashi Vishwanath Dham was driven by the intent to facilitate the pilgrims and devotees, who had to encounter congested streets and surroundings with poor upkeep, when they practised the age-old custom of taking dip in the holy river, collecting Gangajal and offering it at the Baba Vishwanath temple. Coming back to unicorns, 10,000 of them have come up in India in the last six months alone.
A total of 23 buildings were inaugurated in Phase 1 of the Kashi project. They (buildings) will provide a variety of facilities to the pilgrims visiting Kashi Vishwanath Temple, including Yatri Suvidha Kendras, Tourist Facilitation Centre, Vedic Kendra, Mumukshu Bhavan, Bhogshala, City Museum, Viewing Gallery, Food Court, among others. The project is now spread over a massive area of about five lakh square feet, whereas earlier premises were limited to just around 3,000 square feet.
The project involved purchase and acquisitions of more than 300 properties around Kashi Vishwanath Temple. The rehabilitation of around 1,400 shopkeepers, tenants and homeowners was done amicably. The testimony of the project’s success is the fact that there is no litigation pending in any court of the country regarding acquisitions or rehabilitation related to the development of the project. Also, all heritage structures have been preserved during the course of development of the project. During the process of destruction of the old properties, more than 40 ancient temples were rediscovered. These temples have been restored and beautified, while ensuring that there is no change in the original structure.
Thanks to Modi’s ability to translate vision into reality, Kashi is becoming a big medical hub of Purvanchal. Cleanliness and beauty of the Ganga and Kashi have always been an aspiration and priority for the Modi government. Work is on for schemes worth Rs 8,000 crore in the region. Various public projects and works, including a 100 bed MCH wing in BHU, multi-level parking at Godauliya, Ro-Ro vessels for tourism development on river Ganga and three lane flyover bridge on the Varanasi-Ghazipur highway, showcase how astha (faith) and vikas (development) have embraced each other.
Additionally, the foundation stones of several projects and public works worth around Rs 839 crores were also laid. These include the Centre for Skill and Technical Support of Central Institute of Petrochemical Engineering and Technology (CIPET), 143 rural projects under Jal Jeevan Mission and mango and vegetable integrated pack house in Karkhiyaon.
The rapidly improving medical infrastructure in Uttar Pradesh is also commendable. Number of medical colleges in the last four years has grown four-fold. Many medical colleges are in various states of completion. About 550 oxygen plants are being established in the state. The efforts to improve paediatric ICUs and oxygen facilities by the State government are happening rapidly. The recently announced Rs 23,000-crore package will also help Uttar Pradesh. Work is being done on every front, like roads, sewage treatment, beautification of parks and ghats, including widening of Panchkosi Marg.
Large LED screens installed all over the city and latest technology information boards on the ghats will be of great help to the visitors to Kashi. These LED screens and information boards will present the history, architecture, crafts, art, and every such information of Kashi in an attractive way and will be of great use to the devotees. The Ro-Ro service and cruise service that were inaugurated recently will boost tourism, and the Rudraksh centre will provide a world class platform to the artists of the city.
The development of Kashi as a centre of learning in modern times has been made possible, thanks to Modi. Today Kashi is also home to model schools, ITI and many such institutions. CIPET’s Centre for Skilling & Technical Support will help in the area of industrial development. The infrastructure development in Uttar Pradesh has been relentless in recent times. The Defence Corridor, Purvanchal Expressway, Bundelkhand Expressway, Gorakhpur Link Expressway and Ganga Expressway are a few examples of the recent push.
At the 54th Convocation of IIT Kanpur, Modi reinforced how faith and innovation can coexist and blend meaningfully, to encourage new opportunities. “Now there is no ‘Fear of Unknown’, now you have the courage to explore the whole world. There is no longer the ‘Query of Unknown’, but ‘Quest for the Best’ and a dream to conquer the whole world,” the PM said while lauding the history of Kanpur and its diversity.
“Kanpur is one of the few cities in India that is so diverse — from Satti Chaura Ghat to Madari Pasi, from Nana Saheb to Batukeshwar Dutt. When we visit this city, it seems as if we are travelling to that glorious past, of the glory of the sacrifices of the freedom struggle,” said Modi.
The moot point here is that be it Kashi or IIT Kanpur, Modi has repeatedly stressed on India’s glorious culture, saints, seers and rich Hindu traditions, but at the same time, he has also exhorted people to embrace innovation and develop scientific temper.
Long ago, Franklin D Roosevelt said, “Men are not prisoners of fate, but only prisoners of their own minds.”
Well, that quote held true for India where for decades together Hindus were deprived of a sense of pride in their culture and their roots. But after Modi took charge at the helm, India has been unstoppable in its march towards both economic progress and spiritual vibrancy, with our mindset now unshackled by any strapping of colonialism. If IIT Kanpur is the epitome of excellence and hunger for knowledge that drives India’s brightest, equally, Kashi is today a microcosm of how growth, prosperity and pride in our historical roots, can all coexist harmoniously.
Needless to add, it is Prime Minister Modi who, by seamlessly embracing both Kashi and Kanpur, has showcased how old-world charm and the new-age India are both two sides of the same template that define the Modi model of good governance.
Sanju Verma is an economist, BJP’s national Spokesperson, and the author of ‘Truth and Dare: The Modi Dynamic’. Views expressed are personal.
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