Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said the 21st century is the century of infrastructural transformation in India and in this decade, the people of the country are going to see a picture of modern infrastructure, which was difficult to imagine in the past.
The PM was addressing a function after flagging off the world’s longest cruise MV Ganga Vilas from Varanasi to Dibrugarh from Ravidas Ghat virtually. He also inaugurated Tent City developed on the bank of Ganga river.
He also inaugurated and laid the foundation stones for several other inland waterways projects, including Haldia Multi Modal Terminal in West Bengal and Maritime Skill Development Centre for North East at Guwahati worth more than Rs 1000 crores during the event.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Shri Yogi Adityanath, Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma, Union Minister of Port Shipping and Waterways Sarbananda Sonowal among others were present on the occasion.
The PM said, “Today’s event is a reflection of the policies made in the country, the decisions taken and the direction taken after 2014. This 21st century is the decade of infrastructure transformation in India. In this decade, the people of India are going to see a picture of modern infrastructure, which was difficult to imagine in the past.”
He said, “Be it social infrastructure like houses, toilets, electricity, water, cooking gas, educational institutions and hospitals, digital infrastructure, or physical connectivity infrastructure like railways, highways, airways and waterways. This is the strongest pillar of India’s rapid development and building of a developed India today.”
Modi said the reflection of the development of new India could be experienced through widest highways, the ultra modern airport, modern railway station, the highest and longest bridge and the long tunnel constructed on the highest altitude. “In this river waterways too are becoming a new strength of India,” he said.
He said river Ganga is not just a stream for the people of India, rather, it is a witness of penance and austerity of this great land of India since ancient times. “Whatever may have been the conditions and situation in India, Mother Ganga has always nurtured and inspired crores of Indians,” he said.
The PM said it is unfortunate that the entire strip along the banks of Ganga lagged behind in development after independence. “What could have been more unfortunate than this is that the entire strip along the banks of Ganga kept lagging behind in development after independence, leave aside the issue of going ahead. This led to exodus of lakhs of people from the banks of the Ganga,” he said.
He said the situation needs to be changed, so that the government decides to work with a new approach. “On the one hand, we worked for the cleanliness of Ganga through Namami Gange, on the other hand we also started the campaign of Arth Ganga. Arth Ganga means, we have taken steps to create a new environment for economic activities in the states situated around the Ganga,” he said.
Modi said, “This Ganga Vilas Cruise will give new strength to this campaign of Arth Ganga. This cruise will provide all kinds of facilities while travelling to Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Assam, West Bengal and Bangladesh.”
He said the longest river cruise from Kashi to Dibrugarh which is being flagged off today will bring to the fore, places of tourism in North India on the world tourism map. “Today, I extend special greetings to all those foreign tourists who are about to embark on their first journey through this cruise. All of you are going to travel on a modern cruise from an ancient city,” he said.
The PM said, “I would specially say to our foreign tourist friends that India has everything that you can imagine. It also has a lot beyond your imagination. India cannot be defined in words. India can only be experienced from the heart. Because India has always opened its heart for everyone, irrespective of region or religion, creed or country. We welcome all our tourist friends from different parts of the world.”
He said this cruise trip is going to bring many new experiences together. “Those who are in search of spirituality will be fortunate to visit Varanasi, Kashi, Bodh Gaya, Vikramshila, Patna Sahib and Majuli. Those who want to experience multinational cruise will get the opportunity to pass through Dhaka,” he said.
Modi said, “For those who want to see the natural diversity of India, this cruise will take them on a tour of the Sundarbans and the forests of Assam. For those who are interested in understanding the system of rivers in India, this visit will be very important for them. Because this cruise will pass through 25 different rivers or river streams. And for those who want to experience the rich cuisine of India, this is also a great opportunity for them.”
He said, “We will get to see a wonderful confluence of India’s heritage and modernity during this journey. This new phase of cruise tourism will also provide new employment and self-employment opportunities to our youths in this field.”
The PM said the cruise will not only be an attraction for foreign tourists, the tourists of the country who used to go abroad earlier for such experiences, will now be able to reach eastern India. “Wherever this cruise will pass, it will create a new line of development,” he said.
He said the government is making similar arrangements for cruise tourism in river waterways across the country. “In addition to long river cruises between cities, we are also promoting short inter-city cruises. This type of arrangement is still going on in Kashi. From budget to luxury cruise, all kinds of facilities are being developed in the country to make it accessible to every tourist class,” he said.
Modi said that this confluence of cruise tourism and heritage tourism is happening in the country at the time when a booming phase of tourism is starting in India. “As India’s global role is increasing, the eagerness to see, know and understand India is also increasing. That’s why in the last 8 years we have laid special emphasis on expansion of the tourism sector in India,” he said.
He said, “We have also made development of our places of faith, pilgrimages and historical places a priority. The city of Kashi has become a live witness to our efforts. Today the roads of my Kashi are getting wider and the Ghats of Ganga are getting cleaner.”
The PM said after the reconstruction of Kashi Vishwanath Dham, the kind of enthusiasm being seen among devotees and tourists is also unprecedented. “Our boatmen, street vendors, rickshaw pullers, shopkeepers, hotel-guest house owners have all benefited from the number of pilgrims who have come to Kashi in the last year,” he said.
He said, “Now this new Tent City in the area across Ganga will give a new experience to the pilgrims and tourists coming to Kashi. There is modernity, spirituality and faith in this Tent City. From Raga to Taste, every flavour and colour of Banaras will be visible in this Tent City.”
Modi said the launch of Ganga Vilas Cruises was also not an ordinary event. “When a country installs a satellite in space on its own, it shows the technical efficiency of that country. Similarly, this journey of more than 3,200 kilometers is a living example of the development of inland waterways in India and modern resources being created for river waterways,” he said.
He said before 2014, there was little use of waterways in the country and that was the situation when the country had thousands of years old history of trade through waterways. “After 2014, the country is engaged in making this ancient strength a major force in modern India’s transport system. We have made a law for the development of river waterways in the major rivers of the country and have prepared a detailed action plan,” he said.
He said in 2014 there were only five national waterways in the country. “Today, work is going on to develop 111 national waterways in 24 states. Services are currently running on about two dozen of these waterways,” he said.
The PM pointed out that till 8 years ago only 30 lakh metric tons of cargo was transported through river waterways and today this capacity has increased more than 3 times. “The number of people using river waterways is also increasing continuously. In this, this national waterway being built on the Ganga too is developing like a model for the whole country. Today this water-way is becoming an important medium for transport, trade and tourism,” he said.
He said this event will also help in making eastern India the growth engine of developed India. “The modern multi-modal terminal at Haldia in West Bengal connects to Varanasi. It is also connected to the Indo-Bangladesh Protocol route and also connects the North East. It also connects Kolkata Port and Bangladesh. That is, it is going to facilitate trade and business from UP, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal to Bangladesh.”
Modi said that be it a cruise ship or a cargo ship, they not only give a boost to transport and tourism, but the entire industry associated with their service also creates new opportunities. “For this, arrangements for training are necessary for the staff and skilled people required. A Skill Development Center has been set up in Guwahati for this. A new facility is also being built in Guwahati to repair ships,” he said.
He said the waterways are not only good for protecting the environment but also save money. “According to a study, the cost of transportation by waterways is two and a half times less than by road. At the same time, the cost of transportation by waterways is one-third less than by the rail,” he said.
The PM said the waterways, which are being built at a fast pace, are going to help a lot in the new logistics policy framed by India. “It is also very important that India has the potential to build a waterway network of thousands of kilometers. There are more than 125 rivers and river streams in India, which can be used to transport people and goods. These waterways will also help in increasing Port-Led-Development in India,” he said.
He said, “The effort is that in the coming years a multi-modal modern network of waterways, railways and highways should be built in India. We have also signed agreements with Bangladesh and other countries, due to which the water connectivity of the North-East is also being strengthened.”