UP: Kashi Vishwanath Corridor Project Triggers Anger And Resentment Among Locals
Varanasi is magical, as the visitors call it. It is the India of your imagination. Being one of the world’s oldest living cities, Varanasi has become a symbol of timelessness. However, since March 2018, something has changed. Krishna Kumar Sharma, an RSS worker points out to the rubble in the heart of Varanasi. He is one among the thousands who lost their shops and homes to make way for ₹600 crore dream project – The Kashi Vishwanath Corridor, as reported by The Wire. PM Modi who is also the elected Member of Parliament from Varanasi, has said to have shown special interest in the project.
Headed by the Varanasi Development Authority and Kashi Vishwanath Mandir Trust, the Kashi Vishwanath Corridor Project aims to beautify and facilitate easy access for pilgrims to visit Kashi Vishwanath Temple directly from the Ganges.
About 250 houses razed to make way for project
But the depressing fact is, more than 250 houses have been demolished to make way for the project. Bulldozers and JCB excavators forced their way through narrow lanes and mohallas near Lalita Ghat and razed several houses and heritage buildings to the ground. According to Vishal Singh, the CEO of temple trust, the basic thing that needed to be done for the project was to decongest the whole path from the river to the temple, to create some space so as to make the path convenient for devotees and to ensure their safety. Singh says the owners are being given a compensation twice the value of the house, while tenants are being provided with a maximum compensation of ₹10 lakh.
However, Rachit Kanojia, whose family has lived for over six generations in the Dalit Basti between Manikarnika Ghat and Lalita Ghat, says, “We were told that we’ll be given compensation and a voice both, but we never acquired a voice, nor are we happy with the compensation.” On a similar note, Usha Devi while talking to Indian Express says that they were promised to be given four to five times the value of their house, but they haven’t been paid even twice the amount.
Locals claim that numerous temples have been destroyed since the demolition exercise took place near Lalita Ghat. According to them, many of the residential complexes which had small, holy temples within them which have been destroyed.
Krishna Kumar Sharma says, “All my life, I just hoped for the time when RSS and BJP would come to power and change things in our country, but not even in my wildest dreams I thought, they’ll cause hardships to their own people. They have done whatever they wanted to. They have completely destroyed the lanes, temples, houses, and culture of Kashi. Do tourists visit to see your roads?” reports The Wire.
According to Deepak Agrawal, the commissioner of Varanasi division, there wasn’t any forcible acquisition. Whatever happened was the result of a mutual agreement between both sides, he said. The people have been paid the compensation as per the new land acquisition rates, which are approved by the government and are twice the market value, he further added, while encouraging people whoever have any grievance to come to him.
Reportedly, the Dalit community living there do not want to leave their homes as they know that they would be the ones who will suffer the most. Vinod Kanojia who has been out of work since the day his house got destroyed in the demolition process says, “The government is erasing the identity of Kashi. This place is also known is anandvan. Par Kashi vasiyon mein koi anand raha hi nahi (There is no joy left among the residents of Kashi).”