Dear Mr Prime Minister, Why Don’t You Move to Varanasi?

22-05-14 Desh Videsh - ModiVaranasi will soon be a smart city, we hear. We hear that it will develop on the lines of Kyoto in Japan; a smart twin thousands of kilometres away. This was expected for a city that is the prime minister’s own constituency. Today, the Japanese PM Shinzo Abe is in Varanasi. The city is decked up for the visit in marigold flowers and massive posters. The ghats and street corners have turned spotless overnight; even the air feels better today. Everything looks new – road dividers and walls gleam in a new coat of paint, dustbins have made an appearance.

Surveillance cameras have been mounted, the road from the Babatpur airport to Dasaswamedh ghat is free of potholes. School children will stand along the road, showering petals on the Very Important Persons. For four-and-a-half hours today, PM Modi and PM Abe will deliberate over the twin cities’ futures. They will attend a very special Ganga aarti, where the ghat will be a sea of 10 lakh flowers and the river will shine through the light of 5,100 lamps. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and his wife, MP Dimple Yadav will fly down for the day. Deals will be signed, and the dream of looking like our twin Kyoto will get closer.

Who doesn’t dream of a smart, clean, and beautiful Varanasi?

But you know, Mr Prime Minister, I’m a little confused. Just three months ago, in September, you visited the city. We saw the same drill: An overnight cleanup, flowers, dustbins, the works. We heard the city spent lakhs of rupees getting ready to welcome you. Remember we did the same twice before for your cancelled visits? What is the meaning, then, of the Swachhata Abhiyan? Look spick and span when you visit us or bring your important friends, but go back to looking filthy every day? I wrote about how the city went back to its unkempt ways, how garbage came back to its streets, how toilets remained unclean, after your September 18 visit. Today, on December 12, I will see my city look beautiful for four hours again. If you, dear mr prime minister, deserve to see the city at its best, don’t we, its residents, deserve to see it like that?

I’m troubled today sir, to tell you the truth. The small hawkers who make their living on the street have had to shut shop for a week before your arrival. Aren’t they your constituency too? Why do they have to become invisible in their city when the PM or CM arrives? Does the government plan on sweeping them under the rug like the filth in the city?

Varanasi needs to be smart every day. It needs to be clean every day. All its citizens should be part of the government plan. We need electricity all day, every day. We don’t want to be a ‘special’ city. Maybe, if you lived here, things will be different. Dear Mr Prime Minister, why don’t you move to Varanasi?

Rizwana Tabassum, Khabar Lahariya