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PM’s speech at flagging off ceremony of World’s Longest River Cruise-MV Ganga Vilas and inauguration of Tent City at Varanasi via VC

PM’s speech at flagging off ceremony of World’s Longest River Cruise-MV Ganga Vilas and inauguration of Tent City at Varanasi via VC

Har Har Mahadev!

Honourable Chief Ministers of various states, Deputy Chief Ministers, my Cabinet colleagues, friends from the tourism industry, tourists present in Varanasi from India and abroad, other dignitaries, ladies and gentlemen, who have joined us in this programme!

Today we are celebrating the festival of Lohri filled with joy and enthusiasm. In the coming days, we will also celebrate various festivals like Uttarayan, Makar Sankranti, Bhogi, Bihu and Pongal. I congratulate and convey my best wishes to all the people celebrating these festivals in the country and around the world.

Friends,

Our festivals, charity, penance, our conviction in the accomplishment of our resolutions as well as our beliefs hold a special significance. And the role of our rivers is crucial in it. On such an occasion, we all are witnessing such a grand celebration related to the development of inland waterways. Today, the world’s longest river cruise – the Ganga Vilas Cruise has started between Kashi and Dibrugarh. As a result, many tourist places of Eastern India are going to become more prominent in the world tourism map. This newly built amazing tent city across the Ganges in Kashi has given tourists and devotees from all over the country and the world another reason to visit and spend a few days here. Besides, projects worth more than Rs 1,000 crore such as multi-modal terminals in West Bengal, floating jetties in UP and Bihar, Maritime Skill Center, Ship Repair Center and Terminal Connectivity Project in Assam, have either been inaugurated or their foundation stones laid. These are going to expand the possibilities related to trade and tourism in Eastern India and create new employment opportunities.

Friends,

Ganga ji is not just a river for us. Rather, she is a witness to the penance in this great land of India since ancient times. Whatever may have been the conditions of India, Mother Ganga has always nurtured and inspired crores of Indians. What can be more unfortunate than the fact that the entire strip along the banks of Ganga ji kept lagging behind in development after independence let alone making any progress? Consequently, lakhs of people also migrated from the banks of the Ganga. This situation needed to be changed, so we decided to work with a new approach. On the one hand, we worked for the cleanliness of Ganga ji through Namami Gange, while 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. This Ganga Vilas Cruise will give a fresh boost to the ‘Arth Ganga’ campaign. This cruise will provide all kinds of facilities while traveling to Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Assam, West Bengal and Bangladesh.

Friends,

Today, I extend my heartiest 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 through an ancient city on a modern cruise. I would particularly like to tell these 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.

Friends,

This cruise journey is going to bring many new experiences together. Those who are in search of spirituality out of it will be fortunate to visit Varanasi, Kashi, Bodh Gaya, Vikramshila, Patna Sahib and Majuli. Those who want to experience multi-national cruise will get the opportunity to pass through Dhaka. For those who wish 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. In short, we will get to see a wonderful confluence of India’s heritage and modernity in this journey. This new phase of cruise tourism will also provide new employment, self-employment opportunities to our youth in this field. This will not only be an attraction for foreign tourists but also for Indians. The tourists of the country who used to go abroad earlier for such experiences, will now be able to turn to eastern India. The path along which this cruise passes will create a new line of development. We are making similar arrangements for cruise tourism in inland waterways across the country. In addition to long river cruises between cities, we are also promoting short inter-city cruises. This type of system 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.

Friends,

This confluence of cruise tourism and heritage tourism is happening in the country at a time when a booming phase of tourism is beginning in India. As India’s global role is expanding, the eagerness to see India, know India and understand India is also rising. That’s why in the last 8 years we have laid special emphasis on expansion of the tourism sector in India. We have also made development of our spiritual, historical and pilgrim places a priority. The city of Kashi has become a living witness to our efforts. Today the roads of my Kashi are getting wider, the ghats of Ganga ji are getting cleaner. 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 and guest house owners have all benefitted from the number of pilgrims who have come to Kashi in past years. 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 as well as spirituality in this tent city. From raga to taste, every flavour and colour of Banaras will be seen in this tent city.

Friends,

Today’s event is a reflection of the policies made, the decisions taken and the directions given in the country since 2014. This decade of the 21st century is the decade of infrastructure transformation in India. In this decade, the people of India are going to see such modern infrastructure, which was difficult to imagine in the past; be it social infrastructure like houses, toilets, electricity, water, cooking gas, educational institutions and hospitals, or digital infrastructure, or physical connectivity infrastructure like railways, highways, airways and waterways. Today, this is the strongest pillar of India’s rapid development as well as of building a developed India. We all can see the reflection of the development of new India with the widest highways, the most modern airports, modern railway stations, the highest and longest bridge, the longest tunnel built at the highest altitude. In this, river waterways are becoming a new strength of India.

Friends,

The launch of Ganga Vilas Cruise today is also not an ordinary event. For example, when a country launches a satellite in space on its own, it shows the technical efficiency of that country. Similarly, this journey of more than 3200 kilometers is a living example of the development of inland waterways in India and creation of modern resources for inland waterways. Before 2014, there was little use of waterways in the country. This was the situation even though India had thousands of years of history of trade through waterways. Since 2014, India haa been engaged in making this ancient strength a major force in modern India’s transport system. We have not only prepared a detailed action plan but also formulated a law for the development of river waterways in the major rivers of the country. In 2014, there were only 5 National Waterways in the country. Today, work is underway to develop 111 national waterways in 24 states. Services are currently running on about 2 dozen of these waterways. Till 8 years ago, only 30 lakh metric tonnes of cargo was transported through inland waterways. Today this capacity has increased more than 3 times. The number of people using river waterways is also increasing continuously. Within this, the National Waterway being built on the Ganges is developing like a model for the whole country. Today this water-way is turning into an important medium for transport, trade and tourism.

Friends,

Today’s 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 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-West Bengal to Bangladesh. Similarly, a network of jetties and Ro-Ro ferry terminals is also being built. With this, it will be easy to commute; and the fishermen and farmers will also get a lot of advantage.

Friends,

Be it a cruise ship or a cargo ship, these not only give a boost to transport and tourism, but also creates new opportunities for the entire industry associated with their services. So, training is necessary for the staff related to this industry. For this, a Skill Development Center has been set up in Guwahati. A new facility is also being built in Guwahati to repair ships.

Friends,

These waterways are also good for protecting the environment and also saving 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 rail. You can imagine how much fuel and money are saved by waterways. These waterways, which are being built at a fast pace, are going to help a lot in the new logistics policy that India has framed. More importantly, 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 for the transport of people and goods. These waterways will also help in increasing Port-Led-Development in India. We are trying to ensure that in the coming years a multi-modal modern network of waterways, railways and highways is built in India. We have also signed agreements with Bangladesh and other countries, due to which the water connectivity in the North East is also being strengthened.

Friends,

Strong connectivity is essential for building a developed India. That’s why this campaign will go on continuously. I hope that the river provides new heights to water power, trade and tourism of the country. With this hope, I extend my heartiest wishes to all the cruise passengers for a pleasant journey. Many thanks to all of you!