PM virtually flagged off the world’s longest river cruise, the MV Ganga Vilas, from Varanasi which will travel 3,200 km to reach Dibrugarh
NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said that strong connectivity is essential for building a developed India. He was speaking after virtually flagging off the world’s longest river cruise, the MV Ganga Vilas, from Varanasi, which will travel 3,200 km in 51 days to reach Dibrugarh via Bangladesh, sailing across 27 river systems.
The Prime Minister also inaugurated the Tent City at Varanasi, on the banks of the Ganga. Developed opposite the famed ghats of the holy city, the Tent City aims to tap the tourism potential of the region.
Besides, the PM also inaugurated and laid the foundation stones for several other inland waterways projects worth more than Rs. 1,000 crores in West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Assam during the event.
Speaking on the occasion, the Prime Minister talked about charity, tapasya and faith in our festivals and the role of rivers in them. This makes the projects related to river waterways all the more significant, he said.
Flagging off the longest river cruise from Kashi to Dibrugarh, the Prime Minister said that the river cruise will put places of tourism in north India on the world tourism map. “Other projects being dedicated today in Varanasi, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Assam worth Rs.1,000 crores will give a push to the tourism and employment potential in eastern India,” he said.
Underscoring the central role of the river Ganga in the life of every Indian, the Prime Minister lamented that the area around its banks lagged behind in development in the post-Independence period, thereby leading to a massive exodus of population from this area.
Elaborating on a twin approach to address the situation, the PM said, “On the one hand, the campaign to clean Ganga was undertaken through ‘Namami Gange’ and on the other hand, ‘Arth Ganga’ was taken up. In Arth Ganga steps have been taken to create an environment of economic dynamism in the states from where Ganga passes.”
Addressing the foreign tourists who are travelling on the maiden voyage of the cruise, the Prime Minister said, “Today India has everything and a lot beyond your imagination. India can only be experienced from the heart, as the nation has welcomed everyone with open hearts, irrespective of region or religion, creed or country and welcomed tourists from all parts of the world.”
“One can witness the extraordinary amalgamation of the heritage of India and its modernity on this cruise,” the Prime Minister remarked as he shed light on the new era of cruise tourism, where new employment opportunities will be created for the youth of the country.
“Not just foreign tourists but Indians who travelled to different nations for such an experience can head towards North India now,” the Prime Minister said.
“Strong connectivity is essential for building a developed India,” the Prime Minister said and stressed that the rivers of India will give new heights to water power, trade and tourism in the country.
The Prime Minister underlined the low usage of river waterways in the country before 2014, despite the rich history of this mode of transport in the country.
Mr Modi said that, post-2014, India is harnessing this ancient strength for the cause of modern India. There is a new law and a detailed action plan for developing waterways in the country’s major rivers.
“Similarly, there has been a three-fold increase in cargo transportation via river waterways from 30 lakh metric tonnes eight years ago,” he said.
The Prime Minister further noted that waterways are not just beneficial to the environment but also help save money. “The cost of operating waterways is two-and-a-half times lesser than that of roadways, and one-third lesser when compared to railways,” he said.
Speaking about the National Logistics Policy, Mr Modi stated that India has the potential to develop a thousands of kilometres of waterway network.
He also emphasised that India has more than 125 rivers and river streams, which can be developed to transport goods and ferry people while also giving impetus to further expanding port-led development.
Referring to Ganga Vilas, the Prime Minister said that similar experiences are being planned for other inland waterways in the country in order to boost cruise tourism while keeping both budget and luxury in mind.
The voyage from Varanasi to Dibrugarh on the world’s longest river cruise, the MV Ganga Vilas, covering five Indian states and Bangladesh, will cost `50-55 lakhs per passenger.
The 51-day cruise is planned with visits to 50 tourist spots, including world heritage sites, national parks, river ghats, and major cities like Patna in Bihar, Sahibganj in Jharkhand, Kolkata in West Bengal, Dhaka in Bangladesh and Guwahati in Assam.
The MV Ganga Vilas is the first-ever cruise vessel made in India. The luxury cruise has three decks, 18 suites on board, 39 crew members, a capacity of 36 tourists and all the luxury amenities.
On board, the tourists will be served local food and seasonal vegetables. No non-vegetarian food or liquor will be on the menu.
According to Antara Luxury River Cruises, which is operating the MV Ganga Vilas, the cruise is fully booked till March 2024. Most of the tourists who have secured seats are from the US and Europe.