The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) in New Delhi maintains a “mini-PMO” in Varanasi’s Ravindrapuri Colony, which constantly connects with the people and addresses their grievances. The “mini-PMO”, officially known as the Jansampark Karyalaya, is headed by Shivcharan Pathak, an RSS pracharak, and has a team of 5-6 employees who listen to grievances from Varanasi’s people.
According to officials there, locals throng the office in large numbers daily with all sorts of problems varying from domestic violence, errant husbands, water and sewage problems to problems of roads and traffic jams in the city.
Pathak told The Sunday Guardian, “The people of Varanasi have voted for Narendra Modi as their Prime Minster, but to make sure that the people do not miss their elected leader, we have this office here, where people from all over the constituency can come with any sort of problem. We make all efforts to resolve them. He wants to constantly remain in touch with the people of Varanasi through this office.”
The office, which operates from a single floor building, functions on all days from 10 am to 6 pm. Local MLAs and MLCs also have their offices here and come on a regular basis to meet the locals and address their problems during office hours. Although the office does not have any administrative power, it makes efforts to work in coordination with the state government and the local municipal corporations. The office also hosts Union Minister Mahesh Sharma every first Saturday of the month. Sharma directly takes account of all the grievances on behalf of the Prime Minister. The PMO in Delhi also remains in constant touch with the office in Varanasi to take updates on the developmental work being carried out in the city.
While moving around Varanasi, the efforts being made by the PMO to bring about changes in the city can be seen. Dustbins have been made available at various locations in the city. The ghats, once full of dirt and sludge, have been cleaned and are being maintained by various organisations. Several toilets have also been constructed throughout the city under the Swachh Bharat scheme. LED boards and screens have been put up in some locations. Banners have been put up across the city to make the city clean and green. Efforts are also being made to clean the Varuna river which flows through the city, and work is being carried out at a fast pace with beautification along the banks of the river.
However, roads, garbage and sewage still remain a major problem of the city. The roads are in a dilapidated condition, with huge potholes, traffic jams and lack of traffic regulations by the traffic police.
Asked about the condition of bad roads and garbage in the city, Pathak said, “This is a very old city and has several narrow lanes and bylanes. The Swachh Bharat mission cannot be the responsibility of the civic authorities alone. People should also learn about their responsibility towards their city. In terms of roads and sewage, it is due to the lack of cooperation by the state government that we are not being able to achieve what we have targeted. We are, however, working towards making all electricity lines underground so that it’s safer. We have completed almost 20% of the work. All efforts are being made and we have to give updates on the progress of work on a weekly basis.”
Kallu Ram, a resident of Varanasi living near the Varuna river, said, “A lot of work is being done here since Modi became Prime Minister. So many people have started getting small jobs like e-rickshaw services. Ola has employed many people and a large section of the corporate sector has started to come here. Also, several people have started getting loans directly from the banks for setting up small businesses. Modi has put India on the global map and is trying to do something. The Varuna river here had almost become like the Yamuna in Delhi, but last year, work began, which is progressing at a very fast pace. We hope that the BJP government comes to power in Uttar Pradesh so that work happens faster here.”
Avinash Shukla, another resident in Varanasi’s Cantonment area, said, “The state government here is very bad. There is no law and order. We are seeing a jungle raj and the Samajwadi Party government has failed to curtail it. Even when the PM is trying to do something, the state government is creating hindrances as several things are under state subjects. We want the roads and the traffic jams of the city to be improved. They are among the worst things of this city.”