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'Modi may have lost confidence in Varanasi'

March 07, 2017 08:49 IST

'After his road shows, the people of Varanasi are debating what forced the prime minister to move around in the narrow lanes of Varanasi.'
'If he had taken out one road show, no one would have objected.'
'But what was the need to do it thrice?'

IMAGE: Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his road show in Varanasi, March 5, 2017. Photograph: PTI Photo

'Har Har Modi, Ghar Ghar Modi!' chants have been heard loud and clear in Varanasi during the final days of the election campaign in Uttar Pradesh as Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited his parliamentary constituency ahead of the last phase of voting in UP.

The ancient city was transformed into a sea of saffron as Modi supporters turned out en masse.

And while it seemed that many have sung praises of Modi's campaign in Varanasi, Vishwambhar Nath Mishra, a professor at the Indian Institute of Technology and president of the Sankat Mochan Foundation -- dedicated to cleaning the Ganga -- has something different to say.

In an interview with Rediff.com's Syed Firdaus Ashraf, Professor Mishra explains why he thinks Modi's electoral blitzkrieg in the city doesn't bode well for the country or the people of Varanasi.

Prime Minister Modi campaigned in Varanasi for three days.

The post occupied by Narendra Modi, of prime minister, is very big. If the PM campaigns for three straight days in a constituency for a state assembly election, then it is very sad.

PM Modi has shown big dreams to the city of Varanasi, but no work has been done yet.

The BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) has forced the people of Varanasi to accept a candidate who is not acceptable to the people of Varanasi.

This is the constituency of the prime minister and the BJP should have won the elections on his name.

He is forced to go for a road show and I think the situation is not good.

The prime minister must think of the entire country and not one city alone.

What are the promises that have not been fulfilled?

The biggest promise that is yet to be fulfilled is the cleaning of the river Ganga.

It is the biggest attraction of Varanasi, it is important to Varanasi.

In 2014, the Modi government had promised that they would improve the condition of the Ganga, but it's 2017 and the river is in an even worse condition.

IMAGE: Funeral pyres at a cremation ground on the banks of the Ganga. According to the professor, the cleanliness of the river is cosmetic. Photograph: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

Isn't the cleaning of the Ganga being undertaken in a massive way?

The cleanliness of the Ganga is only a cosmetic arrangement. I will explain to you in technical terms and evaluate it for you.

The government says the Ganga is fit for bathing.

In general, a river is fit for bathing if its fecal coliform count per 100 ml is less than 500. This is the first requirement.

Second, the biochemical oxygen demand should be less than 3 milligrammes per litre.

Third, dissolved oxygen should be higher than 5 milligrammes per litre. This is the standard for any river.

You are doing some arbitrary work in the name of the Ganga.
Do you think it will improve the health of the Ganga?
The situation of the Ganga has worsened further.

Do you know what the reality is?

The fecal coliform count per 100 ml at the Tulsi Ghat is 50,000. Can you compare 50,000 with 500?

And the same is the case with the dissolved oxygen level; it is very high and at the above level.

It's been only two years since Modi came to power. Can't you give him some more time?

In two years, the water quality of the Ganga has gone from bad to worse.

Then what is the point of the work?

You are doing some arbitrary work in the name of the Ganga. Do you think it will improve the health of the Ganga?

The situation of the Ganga has further worsened.

Pollution level has increased manifold. The treatment plant which has been installed in Varanasi does not have the facility to remove fecal coliform bacteria, which is the root cause of all water-borne diseases.

If this is the type of technology you are using, how do you think you will improve the situation?

Is the Ganga not being cleaned scientifically?

There is, in fact, an engineering solution, but the government does not have a scientific approach.

If they go on like this, they will go on for thousands of years to clean the Ganga.

They can put in as much money as they want, but that will not work.

You cannot go against scientific laws.

What suggestions do you have?

We have given an alternative solution for Varanasi but the government is not listening to us.

IMAGE: BJP workers wait to welcome Modi to Varanasi. Photograph: PTI Photo

It was said that Varanasi would become like Kyoto. Do you see that happening?

If somebody is saying Varanasi will become like Kyoto or San Diego, what happens to Varanasi?

Why do you want to change the character of Varanasi?

If someone wants to go to Kyoto, they will go to Kyoto and not a fake Kyoto.

Nobody is coming to Varanasi to see the government's development programme.

Whatever is existing in Varanasi has to be maintained properly, that's it.

You clean the roads, improve the traffic situation and provide uninterrupted power, and you are not doing that for Varanasi, but you want to change the character of Varanasi.

If you want to convert Varanasi into a metropolitan city, then no one will come to Varanasi.

What has Modi done for Varanasi?

They have done some work related to the Ganga -- constructing open trenches on the roads and putting sewer lines. But that in no way will help solve the problem of the Ganga.

Second, they have launched an integrated power development scheme programme and all overhead wires are being put underground.

All the high tension wires are now going under these narrow lanes.

Already, these narrow lanes are choked with sewage lines and drinking water pipes. Now again you are going to do a new thing.

Narrow lanes have their own limitations. What will happen in case of some power failure?

Will they dig up the roads again for repair? This is nonsense.

So you are not caring for the city, but implementing so many different projects.

Suppose a person is sick and he has got five doctors attending on him. If they start indiscriminate medication, then the patient will ultimately die.

They are executing some projects which will not suit the requirement of the people of Varanasi.

IMAGE: Professor Vishwambhar Nath Mishra.

What is the mood of the people in Varanasi like after Modi's road shows?

This is Prime Minister Modi's constituency and by his grace the BJP should have won the elections.

After his road shows, the people of Varanasi are debating what forced the prime minister to move around in the narrow lanes of Varanasi. That is very unfortunate.

If he had taken out a single road show, no one would have objected. But what was the need to do it thrice?

I think he must have lost confidence in Varanasi or whatever the reason.

One sitting BJP MLA was not given a ticket.

That is also one issue.

What is wrong if the PM connects with the people?

If he wanted to connect with the people, he could have come earlier and stayed for 15 days.

It would have been good. We welcome him.

Is there any visible sign of development in Varanasi?

No, not at all.

We hear that the slogan 'Har Har Modi, Ghar Ghar Modi! is being raised everywhere.

If you say 'Har Har Modi in front of me, I will strongly object. 'Har Har Mahadev is the accepted norm in Varanasi as Shivji is the king of Varanasi and no one else.

Do you feel there is a sense of nervousness in the BJP about the election in eastern UP, and that is why Modi has come to campaign so aggressively?

The sense is very obvious. It is very evident.

Why is the prime minister running from pillar to post? That is not a good sign.

What compelled him to roam here for three days?

Syed Firdaus Ashraf / Rediff.com