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What stopped PM Modi from dedicating Namo Ghat to public?

'The slum dwellers were promised awas (residence) by the government'

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the concluding session of the BJP's National Executive meeting, in Hyderabad | PTI Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the concluding session of the BJP's National Executive meeting, in Hyderabad | PTI

Prime Minister, Narendra Modi is in Varanasi today and is dedicating projects worth Rs 553.76 crores to the public. One glaring absentee from this list is the Namo ghat, often referred to as the PM’s namesake ghat.

The decision to exclude Namo ghat from the list was taken on Wednesday evening, a few hours after an initial programme schedule of the PM’s visit to his constituency had been sent out. The original had included the Namo ghat.

The exclusion of the ghat is perhaps an acknowledgement of the growing concerns regarding the project. For one, there is anger among the families who were residents of these ghats and were evicted. The original name of the ghat was Khidkhiya ghat and about 500 people, lived there. They worked mostly as household help and manual labour. 

Saurabh Singh, chief functionary of the Innervoice Foundation said, “The slum dwellers were promised awas (residence) by the government/district authorities in 2020 when their slums were bulldozed. Twenty families got homes in Bajridiha (a locality of Varanasi)”. 

These families, according to Singh have not been given any papers of ownership for the houses. The houses initially had electricity and water connections which are now gone. “They do not know what their fate in these houses is-- are they owners or tenants”, said Singh. 

Sharda Sahni, 48, one of those whose home was demolished to make way for the project said, “They made a smart ghat. It is beautified. There is parking. Foreigners will come. This is what they have done after uprooting the poor”.

Sahni had a tea kiosk earlier, but with the dwellings uprooted in December 2020, she had to wind up the stall too. “With the homes gone, there is no business,” she said. 

Udai Kant Chaudhary, former professor of civil engineering at BHU (Banaras Hindu University) said that the projects undertaken at the ghat (and overall along the Ganga) had not kept the river’s ecology in mind. “To run ships, the depth of the river is being artificially enhanced. After a while the river will try to retain its original shape”. 

Singh said, “As this ghat is named after our beloved PM, the government should have set a good example by rehabilitating these slum dwellers before the inauguration of the PPP project.”

He also makes the point about overlooking other concerns. “The nearby Shahi Nala still carries millions of litres of sewage into the Ganga river every day”. 

“Perhaps the administration has realized its mistakes and is hesitant to tom-tom it as a successful project”, said Singh.

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