Modi flags off MV Ganga Vilas -- the world's longest river cruise -- from Varanasi to Dibrugarh
New Delhi, January 13, 2023
Prime Minister Narendra Modi flagged off MV Ganga Vilas on the world's longest river cruise from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh to Dibrugarh in Assam via video conference today.
He also inaugurated the Tent City at Varanasi, his Lok Sabha constituency in Uttar Pradesh. He also inaugurated and laid the foundation stones for several other inland waterways projects worth more than Rs 1,000 crore on the occasion.
MV Ganga Vilas is expected to unlock the huge untapped potential of river cruises in the country and herald a new era of river cruise tourism in India.
Speaking on the occasion, Modi said the cruise flagged off today would bring to the fore several places on the world tourism map.
Underlining the central role of river Ganga in the life of every Indian, the Prime Minister lamented that the area around the banks lagged behind in development in the post-independence period thereby leading to a massive exodus of population from this area.
He spoke about the government's twin approach to address the situation. On the one hand, the campaign to clean Ganga was undertaken through Namami Gange and "Arth Ganga" was taken up on the other. In "Arth Ganga" steps have been taken to create an environment of economic dynamism in the states through which the Ganga passes.
Directly addressing the tourists from foreign countries who are traveling on the maiden journey of the cruise, the Prime Minister said, “Today India has everything and a lot beyond your imagination.” He further added that 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.
The Prime Minister said the cruise had something special for everyone. Those seeking spirituality will cover destinations like Kashi, Bodh Gaya, Vikramshila, Patna Sahib and Majuli, tourists looking out for a multinational cruise experience will get the opportunity to travel via Dhaka in Bangladesh, and those wanting to witness the natural diversity of India will cross through Sundarbans and the forests of Assam.
Observing that the cruise will pass through 25 different river streams, Modi said that it would be of great significance for those who have an interest in understanding the river systems of India. He also mentioned that it is a golden opportunity for those who want to explore the myriad culinary and cuisines of India.
“One can witness the extraordinary amalgamation of the heritage of India and its modernity on this cruise,” he said.
He said the new era of cruise tourism would create new employment opportunities 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," he said.
Modi said similar cruises are being readied in other inland waterways of the country, keeping in mind the budget as well as the luxury experiences.
According to him, with India's growing global profile, there was also an increase in curiosity abroad about the country.
That is why, he said, in the last eight years various steps were taken to expand the tourism sector in the country. Places of faith were developed on priority and Kashi is a live example of such efforts. With improved facilities and the rejuvenation of Kashi Vishvanath Dham, Kashi has seen a huge increase in the number of visiting devotees. This has given a massive boost to the local economy. The New Tent City, infused with modernity, spirituality and faith, will provide a novel experience to tourists, he said.
The Prime Minister said that today’s event is a reflection of the policies, decisions and direction taken after 2014 in the country. “This decade of the 21st century is a decade of infrastructure transformation in India. India is witnessing a level of infrastructure which was unimaginable a few years ago.”
He said that from social infrastructure like houses, toilets, hospitals, electricity, water, cooking gas, educational institutes to digital infrastructure to physical connectivity infrastructure like railways, waterways, airways and roads, all these are strong indicators of the rapid growth of India. In all the fields India is seeing the best and biggest, he pointed out.
Modi said there was low usage of river waterways in India before 2014 despite the rich history in this mode of transport in the country. Post 2014, India is harnessing this ancient strength to the cause of modern India, he said.
"There is a new law and a detailed action plan for developing waterways in big rivers of the country," he said.
He said there were only five national waterways in the country in 2014, but now there were 111, of whom about two dozen were already in operation. There has been a three-fold increase in cargo transportation via river waterways from 30 lakh metric tonnes eight years ago.
Modi also said that the projects launched today would help in the developed of eastern India. He said a skill development centre was being set up in Guwahati and a new facility is also being constructed in that city for the repairing of ships.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and Union Minister of Port Shipping and Waterways Sarbananda Sonowal were amongst those present on the occasion.
MV Ganga Vilas will cover the 3,200 km from Varanasi to Dibrugarh in 51 days, sailing across 27 river systems in India and Bangladesh. The ship has three decks and 18 suites on board with a capacity of 36 tourists, with luxury amenities. The maiden voyage has 32 tourists from Switzerland who have signed up for the entire length of the journey.
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.
Tent City has been conceptualised on the banks of the River Ganga to tap the potential of tourism in the region. The project has been developed opposite to city ghats which will provide accommodation facilities and cater to the increased tourist influx in Varanasi, especially since the inauguration of Kashi Vishwanath Dham. It has been developed by Varanasi Development Authority in PPP mode. The tourists will reach the Tent City by boats from different Ghats situated in the vicinity. The tent city will be operational from October to June every year and will be dismantled for three months due to the rise in river water level in the rainy season.
The other projects launched today include the Haldia Multi-Modal Terminal in West Bengal and four floating community jetties at Saidpur, Chochakpur, Zamania in Ghazipur district and at Kanspur in Ballia district in Uttar Pradesh.
Modi laid foundation stones for five community jetties at Digha, Nakta Diyara, Barh, Panapur in Patna district and Hasanpur in Samastipur district in Bihar. More than 60 community jetties are being constructed along the river Ganga across the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal to boost the economic activities and improve the livelihoods of local communities in the region.