Holy city cries for development

Filth, pollution not poll issues as Benaras votes tomorrow

“Cows and bulls rule the roads here. Human excreta flows on the roads during rains and mixes with the water of the Ganges. The water is used for drinking by the people.” These remarks by an American tourist amply narrate the plight of the ancient and holy city of Varanasi.

The tourist had made these remarks in a letter to her friend. “The lady tourist gave us a letter to post to one of her friends in the USA. Since it was not put in an envelope, we could read it.

The description of the city really shocked us but it was true,” says Ashutosh Pandey, who owns a hotel near the famous ghats of the Ganges where the tourist had stayed.

For a city that attracts thousands of foreign tourists and is known for its rich cultural heritage and the world famous Benarasi silk sarees, the comments may seem to be a bit offensive. But one has to visit during the rainy season and the truth will dawn immediately. 

“The oldest city in the world is at its worst today. People who come here from outside curse us for the condition of the city. What can we do? The people’s representatives do not take any interest in resolving the problems,” says Ashok Kapoor, president of ‘Kala Prakash’, a cultural organisation.

“The city is a hell for those who own four-wheelers. It takes hours to travel a distance of a few kilometres,” Pandey says, cursing successive governments which have done little for the development of the city.

The city’s electorate would exercise its franchise in the third phase of polling on Wednesday, and again development does not appear to be an issue for the voters. “We have no choice. No one has paid any attention to the basic problems of the city,” says Rachana Upadhyaya, a local resident.

“Ganga pollution, traffic congestion and lack of sanitation are the biggest problems the people face here,” she says. And there is hardly anyone who does not agree with her.

Even the famous ghats on the Ganges, where hundreds of foreign tourists are seen strolling, just sitting idly or taking snaps of people and religious activities around them, present a chaotic picture. Security at the ghats, where a bomb blast had killed an infant and wounded many others in December 2010, is slack as usual. 

“It is in the nature of people here to live in an indifferent way. We do not bother about these things. We have realised that nothing will change here,” says Mukesh Singh, as he strolls on the ghats.

Rahul Gandhi’s meeting here a few days back had attracted good crowds but how many would vote for Congress is the big question. 

The city has good Brahmin and Muslim populations, which will play a decisive role in deciding the fate of the contestants. 

The Bhratiya Janata Party had bagged two seats from the city while the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party had won one each in the previous Assembly polls.

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