On the eve of his Japan visit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi sat through a presentation on the renewal of Varanasi, his constituency and pitched in with suggestions.
Mr. Modi, who is keen to turn Varanasi into a “smart city,” is likely to get more inputs on the concept in Japan, as India is eager to learn from the Kyoto model.
Friday’s presentation made by the Union Urban Development secretary Shankar Aggarwal, in the presence of the Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu, is the first step towards the rejuvenation of the heritage city.
To fulfil Mr. Modi’s promise, not only is there a Rs.100 crore assistance package for heritage cities announced by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, but the Urban Development Ministry too is pulling out all the stops to give the city a facelift and carry out the massive task of cleaning the Ganga and the Ghats around it, creating infrastructure, widening roads, laying sewerage systems and ensuring employment for its people.
“There is a general template that has been created for the redevelopment of the heritage cities, but the peculiarities of each city will be borne in mind while executing the project. In Varanasi, too there are certain aspects like religious tourism that will have to be attended to. The other cities that will be redeveloped under the programme are Mathura, Gaya, Amritsar, Ajmer, Kanchipuram and Velankanni,” said a Ministry official.
Though the official did not specify what the suggestions made by the Prime Minister were, he said: “The suggestions will be incorporated and the plans modified.”
These rejuvenation plans will also focus on revival of “physical, social and economic infrastructure” of the heritage cities.
Earlier carried out by the Ministry of Culture, the revival of heritage cities will now be mandated to the Union Urban Development Ministry.