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Varanasi

Modi performs ‘Swachhta Shramdaan’ in Varanasi, visits ‘Pashudhan Arogya Mela’

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday performed ‘shramdaan’ for the construction of a twin pit toilet at Shahanshahpur village in Varanasi district of Uttar Pradesh as part of the Swachh Bharat Mission, the national cleanliness campaign.

 
Governance is not about vote banks: Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today performed ‘shramdaan’ for the construction of a twin pit toilet at Shahanshahpur village in Varanasi district of Uttar Pradesh as part of the Swachh Bharat Mission, the national cleanliness campaign.
 
Mr. Modi, who was on a two-day visit to his Lok Sabha constituency, interacted with the people, who have resolved to make the village open-defecation-free (ODF). He appreciated their initiative of naming the toilet "Izzat Ghar."
 
Mr Modi also visited a ‘Pashudhan Arogya Mela’ organised at the village. He was briefed on various health and medical activities being performed at the premises. These included surgeries on cattle, ultrasonography, and so on.
 
Addressing a gathering on the occasion, the Prime Minister congratulated Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and the State Government for the successful setting up of the Pashudhan Arogya Mela. This is a new effort which would benefit the animal husbandry sector in the State, he said.
 
The increase in milk productivity will lead to economic benefit for the people. Cooperatives can help consolidate the gains in the dairy sector, as has been the case in other parts of the country.
 
Describing the well-being of people as the priority for governance, the Prime Minister reiterated the pledge to double farm incomes by 2022. He noted that soil health cards are benefiting farmers significantly. “Each one of us should resolve to make a positive contribution by 2022, to achieve the India that our freedom fighters dreamt of,” he added.
 
Mr. Modi said the feeling of "cleanliness being our responsibility" needs to be inculcated among all. He said this would go a long way towards ensuring wellness, and protecting the health of the poor. He said Swachhta is like a prayer for him and cleanliness a way to serve the poor.
 
On the first day of his Varanasi visit yesterday, Mr Modi visited the historic Tulsi Manas temple in the evening. He released a postal stamp on “Ramayana,” on this occasion.
 
Speaking on the occasion, the Prime Minister said stamps have a special place in society. “They are a wonderful way to preserve our history,” he added. The Prime Minister also spoke of how the life and ideals of Lord Rama continue to inspire everyone. He later visited the Durga Mata Temple and Durga Kund.
 
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Modi files papers from Varanasi; vows to clean up Ganga, serve weavers

BJP Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi on Thursday filed his nomination papers for the ongoing Lok Sabha elections from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh and vowed to turn it into the spiritual capital of the world, clean up the mighty Ganga river and put its famed weavers back on the road to prosperity.

 
Modi files his nomination papers from Varanasi
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi today filed his nomination papers for the ongoing Lok Sabha elections from  Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh and vowed to turn it into the spiritual capital of the world, clean up the mighty Ganga river and put its famed weavers back on the road to prosperity.
 
"Mother Ganga has called me to Varanasi. I don't think anyone has sent me here nor have I come here. Like a child returning to his mother's arms, I have come here to Ganga," he told mediapersons outside the district collectorate before filing his papers.
 
Mr Modi's main rivals in Varanasi are Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader and former Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and local Congress leader Ajay Rai.
 
Well-known classical vocalist Channulal Mishra, retired Allahabad High Court judge Giridhar Malaviya, a boatman Virbhadra Nishad and Ashok, a weaver, were among those who signed Mr Modi's nomination papers as proposers.
 
Senior BJP leaders Amit Shah, Ravi Shankar Prasad and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi were amongst those present on the occasion.
 
Mr Modi is also contesting for a seat in the Lok Sabha from Vadodara in Gujarat, where his main rival is senior Congress leader Madhusudhan Mistry. 
 
Vadodara will go to the polls on April 30, while Varanasi will vote on May 12 in the final round of the nine-phase elections.
 
“The Modi wave in the country has turned into a tsunami after Mr Modi filed  his papers from here today and it will wipe out all other parties such as the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Congress in Uttar Pradesh,” Mr Shah, one of Mr Modi’s closest confidants, told reporters later.
 
Earlier, Mr Modi, 63, arrived in Varanasi this morning to a resounding welcome by thousands of his party's supporters who lined up both sides of the streets on his route to the collectorate. On the way, he paid tributes at the statues of Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, the renowned educationist, and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, India's first Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister. Incidentally, Mr Giridhar Malaviya is a grandson of Madan Mohan Malaviya.
 
Mr Modi, who has been the Chief Minister of Gujarat since late 2001, told reporters that he had been able to change the fortunes of kite makers, who are mainly Muslims, in his state by modernising the industry and introducing new technology and marketing tools and was confident he would be able to achieve similar changes for the weaver community of Varanasi, again made up largely of Muslims.
 
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He also spoke about his success in cleaning up the Sabarmati river that flows through Ahmedabad, the main city of Gujarat, and building a modern waterfront there, and hoped to develop the Ganga in Varanasi in similar fashion.
 
"Varanasi is the cradle of India’s glorious culture, a confluence of tradition, history, culture and harmony. This is the blessed land of the Sankat Mochan temple. The spiritual power of this land is exceptional. It drew people from all over the world, who came to this land in search of peace and Moksha. It was in Sarnath, that Gautama Buddha delivered his first sermon after attaining Enlightenment. Varanasi is the birthplace of the venerable Sant Ravidas. It was in Benaras that Mahatma Kabir was born, lived and shared his wisdom. Mirza Ghalib described Benaras as ‘Kaba-E-Hindustan’ and ‘Chirag-E-Dair’ or the light of the world.  When Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya had to select a place to set up a centre of learning, it was not a surprise that he chose Benaras. No mention of Varanasi is complete without remembering (shehnai player) Ustad Bismillah Khan, arguably the greatest symbol of Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb. Ustad Bismillah Khan Sahab’s love for Varanasi is legendary," Mr Modi said in his blog today before he reached Varanasi.
 
"We envision Varanasi as a World Heritage Site that is able to draw both devotees and those who wish to understand and absorb India’s culture. This means creating state-of-the-art tourist and infrastructure facilities for Varanasi. And it is my firm belief that once we are able to give the required impetus to tourism, it will not only bring more tourists but also enhance the livelihood of the poorest of the poor. More tourists means more income for those associated with temples, those who are living on the Ghats, those who ride the ferries on the Ganga…the entire town and surrounding areas will receive a much needed facelift," he said.
 
"Ganga is the lifeline of Varanasi and is at the core of our identity- She is our Mother. Unfortunately, governments have not been able to devote the attention that should have been given to Ganga. The condition of the Ganga in several parts of UP is pitiable. We can’t let this go on anymore! Need of the hour is to work towards cleaning the Ganga and restoring it to its previous glory. In 1986 the Government of the day brought the Ganga Action Plan but it merely remained a plan, the action was missing. Budgets were allocated but the money was never used for the intended purpose. The condition of the Varuna too is similar. Now is the time for urgent action to solve this anomaly!
 
"And when I talk about my commitment to clean the Ganga, it is not a mere promise. When I took over as CM in 2001 the condition of Sabarmati was similar. It was better known for hosting circuses and children playing cricket. Switch to 2014 and things are very different! We have brought water from the Narmada and now water flows through the Sabarmati. A world class Sabarmati River Front was created, which has emerged as a popular recreation and cultural spot in Ahmedabad. With the blessings of Baba Bholenath, this is what we intend to replicate in Varanasi.
 
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"It is not only the Ganga that has become the victim of sheer negligence. We are firm in our commitment to address the issues of cleanliness in Varanasi so that we can give the citizens of Varanasi a clean and green city. We will focus on solid waste management right from collecting the waste to treating it. Similarly, the poor waste disposal practices over the years have not served the people of Varanasi well. We will leave no stone unturned to ensure that such occurrences are history within a very short period of time. Within a fixed timeframe, the problems of solid waste management, sewer and chemical waste will be successfully mitigated," he said.
 
Mr Modi said the weavers of Varanasi had suffered due to apathy of the governments in Delhi and Lucknow.
 
"It is my firm resolve to infuse this sector with latest technology and qualitative value addition so that the weavers of Varanasi become our pride at the world level. From ensuring that they get quality raw material to better marketing of their products, it is my resolve to ensure that they stand on their own feet with pride and their future generations have a bright future," he added.
 
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We pursue development-oriented politics, says Modi in Varanasi

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday called for development-oriented politics and said that the people were now voting on the basis of development and were no longer interested in vote-bank politics.
 
Addressing a gathering at Varanasi, his parliamentary constituency, after inaugurating several development projects, the Prime Minister said the governments run by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) focused on development.
 
Announcing that he would be present at the UP-NRI Diwas in Varanasi in January, Modi pointed out that the face of Varanasi was changing fast, with its ancient culture intact. 
 
"Next-generation infrastructure projects are being introduced in Varanasi and I assure the people that in times to come the entire region will prosper," he said. 
 
"Everyone has a spiritual connect with Varanasi but now the links are being strengthened for Jal-Nabh-Thal (water, air and ground).
 
"Being the Pradhan Sewak and also the MP from Varanasi, I am happy to inform you that it is a matter of double joy for me that the first inland port has been inaugurated in Varanasi," Modi said. 
 
The inland waterways will not only make the people in Varanasi and Poorvanchal prosperous but also the people in Poorvottar Bharat and West Bengal.
 
Modi said that underground wire cabling was being done in the cities and the first phase of the inner ring road had been completed and inaugurated. 
 
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Sewage treatment plants (STPs) have been set in motion to ensure that the filth of the city does not fall into the Ganga and the road from the Babatpur International Airport had been widened, he added.
 
He also rued the fact that previous governments had failed to tap the potential that water bodies in the country offered. 
 
Modi informed the cheering crowd that work was underway on more than 100 waterways in the country. With the start of the Kolkata-Varanasi waterway, states like Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar and West Bengal will benefit immensely.
 
Other than making cleaner, environment-friendly transport possible, the use of waterways will also give a big impetus to the tourism sector. 
 
The widening of the Babatpur airport road, he underlined, will make travel to Jaunpur, Sultanpur, Lucknow much more convenient. 
 
The inauguration of the first phase of the inner ring road in Varanasi, built at a cost of Rs 760 crore, would ensure that there are fewer traffic congestions.
 
"In the last four years, modern infrastructure has been developed and it's before the people to see it... new airports, entry of rail network in north-east, places where Adivasis live, national highways, expressways network, better roads...our aim is all- round development to transform India," he said. 
 
The Centre has also worked on other needs of the people like cleanliness, health, and hygiene. 
 
He announced that in the first 40 days of the launch of the medical insurance scheme, Ayushman Bharat, more than 40 lakh poor people had availed free treatment.
 
IANS
 

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Modi to inaugurate Multi-Modal Terminal on Ganga, sewage infra projects at Varanasi

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi will dedicate to the nation the newly constructed Multi-Modal Terminal on River Ganga in Varanasi on November 12.
 
This will be the first of the three Multi-Modal Terminals and two Inter-Modal Terminals being constructed on the river, an  official press release said.
 
The Prime Minister will receive India’s first container vessel that sailed from Kolkata on October 30, carrying cargo belonging to Pepsico (India).
 
In a separate event the same day, Mr Modi will inaugurate two National Highways projects – the Babatpur-Varanasi Airport road and Varanasi Ring Road. He will also inaugurate some sewerage projects in the city and lay the foundation stone for a project under the Namami Gange programme of National Mission for Clean Ganga.
 
The MMTs are being built as part of the Government’s Jal Marg Vikas project that aims to develop the stretch of River Ganga between Varanasi and Haldia for navigation of large vessels up to 1500-2000 tonnes weight, by maintaining a drought of 2-3 metres in this stretch of the river and setting up other systems required for safe navigation.  
 
The objective is to promote inland waterways as a cheaper and more environmentally friendly means of transport, especially for cargo movement. Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) is the project Implementing Agency.
 
The Jal Marg Vikas Project (JMVP) is being implemented on the Haldia-Varanasi stretch of National Waterway-1 (NW-1) with the technical assistance and investment support of the World Bank, at an estimated cost of Rs 5,369.18 crore ($ 800 million, of which $ 375 is IBRD loan) on a 50:50 sharing basis between the Union Government and the World Bank. 
 
The project entails construction of three multi-modal terminals (Varanasi, Sahibganj and Haldia); two inter-modal terminals; five Roll On – Roll Off (Ro-Ro) terminal pairs; new navigation lock at Farakka; assured depth dredging; integrated vessel repair & maintenance facility, Differential Global Positioning System (DGPS), River Information System (RIS), river training and river conservancy works.
 
Operation, management and further development of the Multi-Modal Terminal is proposed to be entrusted to an Operator on PPP model. Selection of the PPP Operator through an International Competitive Bidding is at an advanced stage and expected to be completed by December 2018.
 
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The project of the multi-modal terminal and proposed Freight Village at Varanasi are expected to generate 500 direct employment and more than 2000 indirect employment opportunities.
 
Mr Modi receiving the first container vessel also marks the first time post-independence container movement is taking place on an inland waterway in India. 
 
The IWAI vessel, MV Rabindranath Tagore is transporting 16 containers equivalent to as many truckloads of food and snacks and is expected to reach Varanasi on November 11. It will make its return journey with fertilizers from IFFCO.
 
In a separate function, Mr Modi will inaugurate a 140 MLD Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) at Dinapur built at a cost of Rs 235.53 crore. The project includes a 10-years Operation & Maintenance agreement.
 
The second project comprises three sewage pumping stations at Chaukaghat (140 MLD), Phulwaria (7.6 MLD) and Saraiya (3.7 MLD). The total cost is Rs 34.01 crore. 
 
The third project involves the construction of a 28 km-long relieving trunk sewer, rising mains and interceptor sewers along Varuna and Assi at a cost of Rs 155.87 crore.
 
The Prime Minister will lay the foundation stone for Sewerage Management Scheme for Ramnagar at a cost of Rs 72.91 crore. This will include a10 MLD STP intersecting and diverting four drains.
 
The newly inaugurated sewerage projects will increase the sewage treatment capacity in the city from 102 MLD to 242 MLD. The long-term O&M provision will ensure that the STP will be operated and maintained properly. These projects will ensure treatment of 140 MLD the sewage before getting released in the river thereby reducing the pollution of the river Ganga.
 
These projects along with two other ongoing projects of 120 MLD at Goitha and 50 MLD STP at Ramana will take the sewage treatment capacity in the city to 412 MLD,  which will be adequate for the sewage treatment requirements till the year 2035.
 
There is no sewage treatment facility in the Ramnagar town. The Ramnagar project for which the foundation stone is being laid will intercept the four main drains of the town. The intercepted wastewater will be treated at the proposed 10 MLD STP, the release added.
 
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Two killed, two injured in Varanasi mall firing

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Two persons were killed and two others injured when a man opened fire at them at a mall here on Wednesday evening, police said. The assailant fled the crime scene as frightened people ran for cover.
 
The deceased have been identified as 26-year-old Gopi Kanaujia (salesman) of a showroom in the JHV Mall where the incident took place and Sunil Gaur (tailor), 45. Their bodies have been sent for post-mortem examination.
 
According to eyewitness accounts, the assailant was a student from a local educational institution and he was drunk. He, along with two of his friends, had first gone to a pizza outlet in the mall and then to a shoe store brandishing a pistol.
 
He warned the showroom manager about a person and threatened to kill him if he did not mend his ways. The shopkeepers around tried to overpower him as he was waving a pistol and there were hundreds of people in the mall. In the melee, his pistol was snatched by shopkeepers but he whipped out the pistol of another friend and opened fire, which killed the two persons.
 
The police have started a probe and are checking CCTV footage of the mall located in the Cantonment area of city. They got the mall immediately vacated and sealed the main entry and exit points in the locality.
 
The police also raided the student's hostel room but it was locked. 
 
The injured persons have been identified as Vishal Singh, 28, and Chandan, 31. They have been admitted to a medical facility where their condition is stated to be serious.
 
"A probe is underway on how weapons found their way inside the mall despite frisking at the entry point... Certainly, the security was lax," Varanasi Inspector General of Police Vijay Singh Meena said. 
 
Based on details provided by the people present at the mall, the police are trying to track down the assailant, Meena added.
 
IANS

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IWAI begins container movement on inland waterways

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The Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) started transporting container cargo belonging to the food and beverage giant PepsiCo (India) from Kolkata to Varanasi for the first time on river Ganga (National Waterway-1) on Tuesday.
 
This marks post-independence India’s first container movement on an inland vessel and a milestone moment in the history IWT sector, an official press release said.
 
The 16 containers, equivalent to 16 truckloads, in the vessel MV RN Tagore will reach Varanasi in 9-10 days. MV RN Tagore will make its return journey with fertilizers belonging to IFFCO that will be procured from its Phulpur plant near Allahabad.
 
Secretary (Shipping), Gopal Krishna along with Chairman, IWAI, Pravir Pandey and other senior Government officials flagged off the vessel carrying the consignment in the presence of PepsiCo representatives.
 
The event coincided with another momentous day for IWT in India as IWAI’s first foray into Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model will become a reality with the handing over of operation and management of its terminals in Kolkata to Summit Alliance Port East Gateway (India) Pvt Ltd. (SAPEL) on a supply, operate and maintain (SOM) model.
 
"Container cargo transport comes with several inherent advantages. It reduces the handling cost, allows easier modal shift, reduces pilferages and damage, it also enables cargo owners to reduce their carbon footprints," the release said.
 
The government is developing NW-1 (River Ganga) under JMVP from Haldia to Varanasi (1390 Km) with the technical and financial assistance of the World Bank at an estimated cost of Rs 5369 crore. The project would enable commercial navigation of vessels with a capacity of 1500-2,000 DWT.
 
Union Minister for Shipping Nitin Gadkari had flagged off a consignment of Maruti cars from Varanasi to Haldia in August 2016. Since then pilot movements on National Waterways are currently being done on various stretches. More than 15 of them have already been successfully completed, including integrated movements through NW-1 (Ganga), Indo-Bangladesh Protocol Route and NW-2 (Brahmaputra), the release added.
 
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Modi inaugurates key development projects in Varanasi

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated or laid the foundation stone for several important development projects at a public gathering in Banaras Hindu University (BHU) here yesterday.
 
Among the projects inaugurated were the Integrated Power Development Scheme (IPDS) for Puraani Kashi; and an Atal Incubation Centre at BHU. Among the projects for which the Foundation Stone was laid, is the Regional Ophthalmology Centre at BHU.
 
The cumulative value of all these projects is more than Rs 550 crore. Speaking on the occasion, Mr Modi said the efforts to bring about change in Varanasi, were also aimed at preserving the city’s rich heritage.
 
He referred to the various projects in the power, road and other infrastructure sectors, which have progressed significantly, and brought about an improvement in the lives of the people in the city of Varanasi, and nearby areas.
 
He said he felt very happy when he saw citizens post pictures of Varanasi Cantonment Station online. He mentioned the work being done towards modernization of transport infrastructure. He also spoke of the work being done towards cleanliness and enhancing the visual appeal of the city. This move, which will transform tourism, was a continuing effort. In this context, he also mentioned the work being done in Sarnath.
 
The Prime Minister said basic facilities such as roads, electricity and water, were being extended to the rural areas surrounding Varanasi as well. Kashi is now emerging as a health hub. Referring to the Atal Incubation Centre that was among the newly-inaugurated, he said startups were already beginning to get connected with It. Varanasi was also among the select cities in the country where Piped Cooking Gas was being made available.
 
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Modi turns teacher for school children at Varanasi

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who turned 68 on Monday, donned the hat of a teacher during his visit to Varanasi, his parliamentary constituency, as he interacted with students at a primary school in Narur village here and gave them tips on life.
 
Soon after his arrival at the Babatpur airport where he was received by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and senior BJP leaders, he went on a chopper to Dereka from where he drove straight to the primary school and told children that sports is an integral part of development in formative years and that they should "go out and play".
 
He also told the students, who gifted him red roses, that they should not shy away from asking questions as doing so "is a key aspect of learning". 
 
Greeting students on the Vishwakarma Puja, the Prime Minister also told the neatly dressed school children that it is important for them to understand the significance of skill development.
 
"It is important to learn various skills as this will help you for ever," Modi told the wide-eyed students who appeared elated at the fact that the Prime Minister was amidst them. 
 
After spending some 30 minutes with the children, he drove back to Dereka where he would be spending the night at a guest house.
 
The Prime Minister earlier had a brief interaction with Aanganwadi workers who carried banners to thank Modi for increasing their daily wages. He mingled with them freely and enquired about their work, families and their issues. He also told them that they should become "Yashoda Maiyya" for thousands of children who need attention and better healthcare.
 
Modi is scheduled to meet some students of the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) late in the evening. Some local party leaders and workers are also scheduled to meet the Prime Minister, apprise him of some local issues and wish him on his 68th birthday. He will also be paying a late-night visit to the famous Kashi Vishwanath temple and seek the blessings of Lord Shiva.
 
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Prime Minister Modi has been a regular visitor to the temple.
 
He is scheduled to gift many projects worth over Rs 500 crore to the people of his parliamentary constituency on Tuesday. 
 
The entire city has been decked up on the occasion. A large 68-kg cake of "laddoos" was cut by burqa-clad women at the Azam Park in Lahurabir locality here. Many of the women were from the minority wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
 
The women also sang the happy birthday song for their MP and prayed for his long and healthy life. The intellectual wing of the ruling party held a 108-litre "Kesar Jal" "Rudrabhishek" along with milk of the holy Ganga river at the Ahilyabai Ghat and prayers were held for a long life of Modi.
 
A "68-Kundalini Mahayajna" was also organized at the Panini Girls Degree College.
 
Girls took part in this yajna and offered "Aahutis" as they said Prime Minister Modi has done a lot of things for empowerment of girls. Girl students also held a birthday bash for the Prime Minister at the Agrasen Kanya PG College's Bulanala campus. Cake was distributed on this occasion.
 
Some schools and colleges have undertaken a cleanliness drive and programmes of Yoga to mark the birthday of Modi. Tea parties have also been organized in some localities.
 
IANS
 

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Modi to visit Varanasi on September 17-18

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi will pay a two-day visit to his Parliamentary constituency Varanasi from tomorrow.
 
On arrival in the city tomorrow afternoon, Mr Modi will head directly for Narur village, where he will interact with children of a primary school who are being aided by the non-profit organisation "Room to Read."
 
Later, at the DLW campus, the Prime Minister will interact with students of Kashi Vidyapeeth and children assisted by them.
 
The next day, at the BHU Amphitheatre, he will inaugurate or lay the foundation stone for various development projects, cumulatively worth more than Rs. 500 crore.
 
Among the projects to be inaugurated are Integrated Power Development Scheme (IPDS) for Puraani Kashi; and an Atal Incubation Centre at BHU. Among the projects for which the Foundation Stone will be laid, is the Regional Ophthalmology Centre at BHU. The Prime Minister will also address the gathering, an official press release added.
 
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2019 Indian diaspora conclave to be bigger affair

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The 15th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD), the External Affairs Ministry-organised conclave of Indian diaspora, to be held in Varanasi from January 21 to 23, 2019, will be a bigger affair than all the past editions with a couple of more programmes being added, it was announced on Saturday.
 
Speaking at the launch of the official website for the event here, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said that in addition to attending the three-day PBD in Varanasi, the participants will also be taken to Allahabad where the Kumbh Mela will be going on then and then brought to New Delhi for the Republic Day celebrations.
 
Giving details of the programme, Sushma Swaraj said that on January 21, a Youth PBD will be held where Himanshu Gulati, an Indian-origin member of parliament of Norway will be the chief guest and Kanwaleet Singh Bakshi, also an Indian-origin member of parliament of New Zealand will be the guest of honour.
 
On January 22, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate the main event with Prime Minister of Mauritius Pravind Jugnauth, who is also of Indian-origin, attending as the chief guest.
 
The event will conclude on January 23 with a valedictory session that will be addressed by President Ram Nath Kovind.
 
During the session, the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman will be conferred on 30 Indian-origin individuals for their exceptional and meritorious contributions in their chosen fields or professions. 
 
"On January 24, we will take the participants to Prayagraj (as Allahabad is also known) for the Kumbh Mela, which has been inscribed on the Unesco's Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity," Sushma Swaraj said.
 
Following this, the participants will be brought to New Delhi by special trains to take part in the Republic Day celebrations on January 26.
 
After being an annual event for 13 consecutive years starting in 2003 at the initiative of then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, PBD was turned into a biannual affair after the 2015 edition in Gandhinagar.
 
After the 2017 edition held in Bengaluru, the External Affairs Ministry has now roped in Uttar Pradesh as the partner state with Varanasi as the host city.
 
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Giving the rationale behind turning PBD into a biannual affair, Sushma Swaraj said that after the 2015 edition, she realised that PBD was not yielding much in terms of results as an annual affair.
 
"So, I suggested to the Prime Minister that it should be held every two years with the intervening year being used to hold meetings with groups of diaspora members on various issues and he agreed," she said.
 
Though the earlier editions were three-day affairs ending on January 9, the day Mahatma Gandhi returned from South Africa, on January 9, 2019, PBD will be observed in Indian missions across the world.
 
With the launch of the website, registration for PBD 2019 has started effective from September 15 and will continue till November 15 when the process will close.
 
Speaking on the occasion, Minister of State for External Affairs V.K. Singh said that more participation is expected in the Varanasi event than the last one in Bengaluru.
 
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who was also present, recalled his participation in the mini PBD held in Mauritius in 2012 and said that with the 2019 PBD being held in Varanasi, many participants will be able to trace their roots back in India.
 
Many of the people of Indian origin in Mauritius are descendants of people taken from eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar during the time of the British Raj to work as indentured labour on the sugarcane plantations on the Indian Ocean island nation.
 
IANS
 

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Ganga floods Varanasi ghats, 20 dead in UP rains

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A swelling Ganga river has inundated the temples on Varanasi ghats and forced cremations at the Manikarnika to be shifted to upper platforms, a Uttar Pradesh official said on Thursday.
 
The river rose by over two metres in the last 24 hours. The famous Ganga aarti from the boats has also been banned.
 
It is flowing just two metres below the danger mark at 69.91m. The Sheetla temple and Ratneshwar Mahadev temple were submerged. 
 
The water level of Varuna river here has also increased. It has flooded the old bridge area, Konia, Kazzakpur and many other low-lying areas. 
 
Three teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have been pressed into service to keep a tab on the rising waters and brace for any eventuality.
 
An NDRF team consisting of 20-25 personnel has been posted on the Assi Ghat, Dashvashmedh Ghat and Rajghat. 
 
Waters of the Varuna river increased due to increased monsoon activity and release of five lakh cusecs of water from the Matateela dam in Lalitpur a few days back, a district official said as rains continued to wreak havoc in many parts of Uttar Pradesh. 
 
In the last 24 hours, 20 persons have been killed in rain-related incidents, including wall collapses, house cave-ins and lightning.
 
According to the office of the Relief Commissioner, three persons have died in Gonda, two in Mirzapur, one each in Meerut, Sitapur and Bahraich while three persons have died in Kushinagar, one in Unnao, two in Bijnore, one in Auraiyya, one in Jaunpur and one in Etah.
 
Sports Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Chetan Chauhan would be visiting Farukkhabad later in the day to distribute relief and other material in the district. 
 
He told IANS that he will be taking a boat ride to meet the marooned villagers and give them relief material, food items and medicines. 
 
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath is also scheduled to undertake an aerial survey of flood-hit districts of Barabanki, Basti, Sitapur and Gonda.
 
Heavy rains have been battering most parts of the state for the last 10 days, leading to flooding of many regions and water logging in major cities and towns. 
 
There was, however, a clear sky in Lucknow on Thursday, though the Met forecast two more days of heavy rains in the city and areas around it.
 
IANS
 

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Five killed in UP road accident

 
Five dead in UP road accident
 
 
Five pilgrims headed to Allahabad were killed and seven others injured when their vehicle crashed into a truck stationed on the roadside in Jaunpur early on Saturday, police said.
 
The accident took place on the Rae Bareli-Jaunpur highway at around 3 a.m. when the SUV carrying the pilgrims from Kathirav village in Varanasi to Kade Manikpur in Allahabad, collided with the truck.
 
A police officer told IANS that, prima facie, the driver of the SUV appeared to have fallen asleep at the wheel leading to the accident. 
 
The injured were rushed to the Machlishahr community health centre where five were pronounced dead on arrival. 
 
The remaining seven were rushed to the district hospital in serious condition, from where they were referred to the BHU Trauma Centre where condition of four remains critical, the official added.
 
The deceased have been identified as Jai Prakash, 35, his wife Sarita Devi, 34, Sushil Devi, 31, Sharmila, 20, and Manoj Patel, 28. The bodies have been sent for autopsy.
 
IANS
 

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Modi dedicates Bansagar canal project to the nation

Prime Minister Narendra Modi dedicated the Bansagar canal project to the nation at Mirzapur in Uttar Pradesh on Sunday.

 
Fulfilled our promise to give 1.5 times of MSP: Modi
 
 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi dedicated the Bansagar canal project to the nation at Mirzapur in Uttar Pradesh today.
 
This project will provide a big boost to irrigation in the region and benefit farmers in Mirzapur and Allahabad districts of the state.
 
Mr Modi also laid the foundation stone of the Mirzapur Medical College. He inaugurated 100 Jan Aushadhi Kendras in the state. He also dedicated a bridge over the Ganga at Balughat, Chunar, which will facilitate connectivity between Mirzapur and Varanasi.
 
Speaking on the occasion, the Prime Minister said the Mirzapur region holds immense potential. In this context, he referred to his previous visit along with French President Emmanuel Macron for the inauguration of a solar plant.
 
The Prime Minister also mentioned the various development projects and works that he has either inaugurated or laid the foundation stone, over the last two days.
 
He said the Bansagar project had been first conceptualized about four decades ago, and the foundation stone was laid in 1978. However, the project was unduly delayed. After 2014, this project was made a part of the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana, and all efforts were made to complete it.
 
Talking about measures taken for the welfare of farmers by the Union Government, Mr Modi mentioned the recent increase in MSP for Kharif crops.
 
He spoke of the measures taken to provide affordable healthcare to the poor, including Jan Aushadhi Kendras. The Swachh Bharat Mission was also proving effective in controlling diseases. The health assurance scheme ‘Ayushman Bharat’ would be rolled out soon, he added.
 
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Modi launches development projects worth Rs. 900 crore in Varanasi

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated or laid the foundation stone of important projects, cumulatively worth over Rs 900 crore, his Lok Sabha constituency in Uttar Pradesh today.
 
Among the projects inaugurated are the Varanasi City Gas Distribution Project and the Varanasi-Ballia MEMU train. Foundation stones were 0laid for the PanchkoshiParikrama Marg and several projects under the Smart City Mission and Namaami Gange. 
 
Mr Modi also laid the foundation stone for an International Convention Centre in Varanasi.
 
Addressing a public meeting on the occasion, the Prime Minister began by congratulating the young athlete Hima Das for winning the gold medal in the 400 meters event in the Under 20 World Athletics Championship.
 
He said for the last four years, efforts were being made to develop the city of Kashi in accordance with the requirements of the 21st century, keeping its ancient identity intact. A new Banaras that blends spirituality and modernity was being developed for a new India, he added.
 
He said a glimpse of this new Banaras is now visible all around. Significant investment has been made in Varanasi over the last four years. The projects that were either inaugurated or for which the foundation stone was laid today, form a part of this ongoing exercise.
 
The Prime Minister elaborated upon his vision of Transformation through Transportation, and said laying of the foundation stone of the Poorvanchal Expressway at Azamgarh was part of the exercise.
 
He said Varanasi was emerging as a centre for medical science in the region. The Banaras Hindu University (BHU) will work with AIIMS to develop a world-class health institute.
 
Mr Modi referred to the poor condition of roads and other infrastructure in Varanasi, four years ago. The waste of the city was going unchecked into the Ganga. Today, he said, by contrast, efforts were underway to clean the Ganga from Gangotri till the ocean.
 
Elaborating on the various projects for sewage treatment, he said the fruits of all these efforts would become apparent in the future. Work was in full swing for an Integrated Command and Control Centre, that would make Varanasi a Smart City.
 
The Smart City Initiative is not just a mission to improve infrastructure in cities, but also a mission to give India a new identity. He complimented the State Government for its Industrial Policy, and investment climate and said the results have started to become evident. 
 
He mentioned the mobile manufacturing unit of Samsung, inaugurated recently in Noida. Mobile manufacturing units were creating lakhs of jobs.
 
Speaking of the city gas distribution project, the Prime Minister said that 8000 houses in Varanasi have already received piped cooking gas connections. He also mentioned the use of CNG as fuel for public transport in the city.
 
Referring to how the city had welcomed Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and French President Emmanuel Macron, he said another occasion for Varanasi to showcase its hospitality was coming soon, with the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in January 2019.
 
Laying the foundation stone of the Poorvanchal Expressway in Azamgarh, he described the occasion as the start of a new chapter in the development journey of the State. The 340 km-long expressway would transform the towns and cities that it passes through. It would also provide swifter connectivity between Delhi and Ghazipur, he added.
 
New industry and institutions can develop along the Expressway. It would also boost tourism in the places of historical significance in the region.
 
Connectivity is necessary for development today. The National Highway network in Uttar Pradesh has almost doubled in four years. In this context, he also spoke of initiatives in air connectivity and water connectivity. An effort was being made to make the eastern part of the country into a new corridor of development.
 
On digital connectivity, he mentioned that optical fibre connectivity had been provided for one lakh Panchayats so far, and added that three lakh Common Service Centres are now making the lives of people simpler.
 
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The Union Government has also taken initiatives for the weavers of this region including modern machines, loans at low interest and the Trade Facilitation Centre in Varanasi, he added.
 
A press release from public sector natural gas major GAIL (India) Limited said the Varanasi CGD network, which is being implemented by it at a cost of Rs. 755 crore, would cover 1,535 sq. km. and cater to a population of 36.76 lakhs. 
 
Two Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) stations have started commercial operations while another 18 will be set up in the coming years. Overall, 20,000 vehicles are expected to use CNG in the city.
 
Besides, Piped Natural Gas (PNG) connection work for 8,000 houses has been completed which are expected to be connected by March 2019. About 1 lakh households are likely to be covered in the project.
 
Steel pipeline has already been laid for 28 km and medium density polyethylene (MDPE) pipe laying for 102 km completed. About 800 km of steel and MDPE pipelines will be laid in the city as part of the project.
 
The CGD network will also cover four industrial areas and can cater to 150 industries and 500 commercial enterprises. It is expected to give direct employment to 1,000 people and indirect employment to many more.
 
The Varanasi CGD project was developed simultaneously with the Jagdishpur – Haldia & Bokaro – Dhamra/ Barauni- Guwahati Pipeline Project (JHBDPL/BGPL), popularly known as the ‘Pradhan Mantri Urja Ganga’.
 
The pipeline project of total length 3,291 km is being executed at the cost of about Rs. 13,000 Crore. It will cater to the energy requirements of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha and Assam covering 70 districts and 3,150 villages.
 
Besides Varanasi, CGD networks are also being developed by GAIL at Patna, Jamshedpur, Ranchi, Bhubaneswar and Cuttack enroute the pipeline.
 
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Modi to visit eastern UP on July 14-15

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi will pay a two-day visit to Varanasi, Azamgarh and Mirzapur districts of eastern Uttar Pradesh on July  14-15.
 
At Azamgarh tomorrow, Mr. Modi will lay the foundation stone of the 340 km Poorvanchal Expressway.
 
The road will connect several important and historical towns of eastern Uttar Pradesh, including Barabanki, Amethi, Sultanpur, Faizabad, Ambedkar Nagar, Azamgarh, Mau and Ghazipur – with the State capital – Lucknow. Once it is complete, Delhi will be connected via an expressway, to several major towns and cities of the State of Uttar Pradesh, from Noida in the west, to Ghazipur in the east.
 
In Varanasi, the Prime Minister will dedicate, or lay the foundation stone of important projects, cumulatively worth over Rs. 900 crore. Among the projects to be dedicated are the Varanasi City Gas Distribution Project, and the Varanasi-Ballia EMU train. Foundation stones will be laid for the Panchkoshi Parikrama Marg, and several projects under the Smart City Mission and Namaami Gange. He will also lay the foundation stone for an International Convention Centre in Varanasi.
 
At a separate event, the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Shri Yogi Adityanath, will release a book titled “Meri Kashi,” in the presence of the Prime Minister.
 
On July 15, Mr. Modi will visit Mirzapur, where he will dedicate the Bansagar Canal Project to the Nation. This project will provide a big boost to irrigation in the region, and will be greatly beneficial for the farmers of Mirzapur and Allahabad districts of Uttar Pradesh, an official press release said.
 
At the same event, he will lay the foundation stone of the Mirzapur Medical College. He will inaugurate 108 Jan Aushadhi Kendras in the State. He will also dedicate a bridge over the River Ganga at Balughat,Chunar, which will facilitate connectivity between Mirzapur and Varanasi, the release added.
 
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His pleas unheard, UP minister himself starts work on road

 
Message to govt that we are not dependent on them: Rajbhar
 
 
In a major embarrassment to the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh, senior Cabinet Minister and Suhaildev Bahujan Samaj Party (SBSP) President Om Prakash Rajbhar on Saturday took up labour work for construction work of a road outside his house in Fatehpur Khonda village of Varanasi.
 
Sporting a yellow turban, symbolic of his party, the miffed Backward Classes Welfare and Disabled People Development Minister started leveling the road and clearing the mud, accusing the state government of doing nothing on his request, made six months ago, for construction of a road outside his house in the village.
 
"If a minister cannot get a road made, just think of what people would be going through," the angry son of Rajbhar told IANS over phone.
 
Rajbhar's elder son Arvind Rajbhar was married on June 21 and the reception is scheduled at his native village on Sunday, which is likely to be attended by many VVIPs and dignitaries, including BJP national President Amit Shah, state Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, Organisational Secretary of the party Sunil Bansal and many state ministers.
 
National General Secretary of the SBSP Arun Rajbhar said the Minister and his family had brought to the attention of the district administration and senior officials about the pitiable condition of the road and the impending wedding for the last six months but the "petitions had fallen on deaf ears". 
 
"We were left with no option but to start working ourselves as there is very little time for the marriage reception," Arun Rajbhar said.
 
Rajbhar has been critical of Yogi Adityanath government for the past one year and has publicly castigated the alleged wrongs of the state government of which he is a part of.
 
He revolted and almost voted against the BJP candidates in the Rajya Sabha biennial elections in April, until Amit Shah intervened and salvaged the near-certain embarrassment for the ruling party.
 
Earlier this month, Rajbhar also met senior SP leader Shivpal Singh Yadav, triggering speculation of a possible realignment of the backward forces in the state in the run up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. 
 
IANS
 
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18 die as under-construction Varanasi flyover collapses

 
16 dead as under-construction flyover collapses in Varanasi
 
 
At least 18 persons were killed when a section of an under-construction flyover collapsed in Varanasi, the parliamentary constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, an official said on Tuesday.
 
Two dozen persons were injured in the tragedy near the Cantonment railway station here. The flyover was being constructed by the Uttar Pradesh State Bridge Corporation.
 
Many cars were buried under the collapsed structure, district officials said, adding that the death toll could go up once the debris was cleared.
 
Three persons were pulled alive out of the crashed structure. Two persons admitted at a medical facility were said to be in a critical condition, an official spokesman told IANS. 
 
A crane belonging to the National Highways Authority of India pulled out all vehicles that were crushed under the collapsed flyover portion.
 
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath would reach Varanasi late in the night to take stock of the situation, the official said.
 
Principal Secretary (Home) Arvind Kumar said that seven NDRF teams comprising 325 rescuers have been deployed at the spot to carry out rescue. 
 
"Sixteen bodies have been recovered so far. Three persons have been pulled out alive from under the debris," he told IANS earlier, adding that three-four people could still be trapped.
 
The Uttar Pradesh government constituted a three-member committee of Agriculture Production Commissioner Raj Pratap Singh, Irrigation Department Chief Engineer Bhupendra Sharma and Jal Nigam Managing Director Rajesh Mittal to probe the collapse and submit a report within 48 hours.
 
The team had been asked to immediately leave for Varanasi and hold investigations.
 
Varanasi District Magistrate Yogeshwar Ram Mishra said their prime focus for now was on rescue and relief.
 
Work on the flyover between Chauka Ghat bus stand and Lahartara had been initiated during the Samajwadi Party rule.
 
The Chief Minister mourned the loss of lives and directed officials to ensure prompt rescue and relief, a state government spokesman said.
 
Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya has already left for the spot.
 
A compensation of Rs 5 lakh each has been announced for the families of the dead and Rs 2 lakh for critically injured.
 
IANS
 
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16 killed in Varanasi flyover collapse, probe ordered

 
16 dead as under-construction flyover collapses in Varanasi
 
 
At least 16 persons were killed and another four were trapped under rubble after a span of an under-construction flyover collapsed in Varanasi -- the parliamentary constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, an official said on Tuesday.
 
The mishap took place in front of the local Cantonment railway station. Two dozen persons have been injured in the incident, a police official said.
 
Many cars have been buried under the heap of rubble, district officials said, adding that the death toll could go up once the operation to clear the debris is completed.
 
The flyover was being constructed by the Uttar Pradesh State Bridge Corporation.
 
Principal Secretary (Home) Arvind Kumar informed that seven NDRF teams comprising 325 men have been deployed at the mishap site. "16 dead bodies have been recovered so far and three persons have been pulled out alive from under the debris," he told IANS, adding that three or four people could still be trapped.
 
Meanwhile, the Uttar Pradesh government has constituted a three-member committee comprising Agriculture Production Commissioner (APC) Raj Pratap Singh, Irrigation Chief Engineer Bhupendra Sharma and Rajesh Mittal, the Managing Director of UP Jal Nigam, to probe the incident and submit a report within the next 48-hours.
 
The team has been asked to immediately leave for Varanasi and hold investigations.
 
Varanasi District Magistrate Yogeshwar Ram Mishra said for now their prime focus is on rescue and relief work.
 
Work on the flyover between Chauka Ghat bus stand and Lahartara had been initiated during the regime of the Samajwadi Party (SP).
 
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has mourned the loss of lives in the mishap and directed officials to ensure prompt rescue and relief, a state government spokesman informed. 
 
Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya has already left for the site of mishap, he said. 
 
A compensation of Rs 5 lakh each has been announced for the families of dead and Rs 2 lakh for those critically injured in the mishap.
 
IANS
 

12 killed, 50 injured as under-construction flyover collapses in Varanasi

 
12 dead as under-construction flyover collapses in Varanasi
 
 
An under-construction flyover collapsed in Varanasi on Tuesday, killing 12 people while over 50 persons are feared trapped under the debris.
 
Many cars have been buried under the heap of rubble, district officials said, adding that the death toll could go up.
 
Rescue operation has been initiated to clear the debris of the flyover, which was being constructed by the Uttar Pradesh State Bridge Corporation. 
 
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has condoled the loss of lives in the incident.
 
Modi tweeted: "Extremely saddened by the loss of lives due to the collapse of an under-construction flyover in Varanasi. I pray that the injured recover soon. Spoke to officials and asked them to ensure all possible support to those affected."
 
IANS
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Ozone pollution can damage wheat crop: Study

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Air pollution is not only injurious to human health, but also to plant life. Scientists from Banaras Hindu University (BHU) have found that most wheat cultivars developed after the year 2000 are more sensitive to damage due to ozone, a by-product of air pollution. This can affect wheat productivity under field conditions.
 
On the ground, ozone is produced by reaction of nitrites and volatile organic compounds released in abundance by automobiles and industries. There has been a rise in ozone levels since the industrial revolution and the levels are projected to increase further.
 
“Once it enters plants, ozone can cause oxidative stress and affect their photosynthetic machinery. Often the leaves start yellowing and lose the ability to fix carbon dioxide into food. All these changes can decrease crop yield,” Dr Shashi Bhushan Agrawal, Professor at the Department of Botany, BHU, who led the study, told India Science Wire.
 
Wheat crop is particularly sensitive to ozone. So researchers assessed the extent of ozone toxicity in 14 varieties of wheat that have been developed over a period of 42 years (1970-2012). Selected wheat cultivars were grown in specially designed open top chambers at BHU campus between December2014 and March 2015. One group of cultivars was grown in ambient ozone concentration, while the other group was subjected to elevated ozone levels.
 
At the end of the experiment, plants were uprooted and compared in terms of yield, total biomass, growth and functional leaf area. The researchers found that all the plants exposed to higher ozone levels carried greater signs of ozone damage. There were spots on leaves, decreased root and shoot length and reductionin dry weight.
 
The intensity of ozone toxicity varied highly between all the 14 cultivars. Only 5-8% of leaf area was damaged in old cultivars as opposed to 12-19% non-functional leaf area in new varieties.
 
Similar trends were also found for plant height, root growth and shoot growth. Scientists also noticed that grain yield was adversely affected in most varieties developed after the year 2000.
 
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“This is because while developing new varieties, breeders try to maximize the photosynthetic rates of crops. But to make more food, plants need to absorb more carbon dioxide. So they open their pores --stomatas -- for longer periods of time. Ozone present in the environment can also gain easy entry into the plants through their stomata and damage the cells,” said Prof. Agrawal.
 
Dr. Vivek Pandey, senior scientist at the National Botanical Research Institute, Lucknow finds this study useful as it tested a large number of wheat varieties against ozone toxicity. “The study has identified certain important traits which provide tolerance to wheat varieties against high ozone and these traits could be potentially useful for developing future ozone tolerant wheat varieties,” Dr Pandey, who is not involved with the BHU study, told India Science Wire. 
 
Prof. Agrawal believes that this study will prompt more breeders to select ozone resistance as a desirable trait for wheat varieties. This has implication for prominent wheat producing regions in India like the Indo-Gangetic plain that suffer from heavy ozone pollution.
 
The research team included Aditya Abha Singh, Adeeb Fatima, Nivedita Chaudhary, Amit Kumar Mishra, Arideep Mukherjee and Madhoolika Agrawal from BHU. The study, published in journal Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, was funded by the Science and Engineering Research Board of the Department of Science and Technology (DST).
 
(India Science Wire)
 
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Once decrepit, Varanasi's Balaji Ghat gets a makeover

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It's a city considered sacred by Hindus and is among the oldest in the world to have been continually inhabited. As the Ganges river flows past its ghats, all 88 of them, each one has a historical tale to tell -- if only the walls could speak.

One such is the Balaji Ghat, which is more popularly known as the abode of legendary shehnai artist Ustad Bismillah Khan for his early morning "riyaaz". It is said that the late musician would start his day from the 'naubatkhana' of the Balaji Ghat Palace and enthral listeners.

Built in 1735 by Maratha king Balaji Peshwa, it is an integral part of the riverfront and forms a part of the larger Panchganga Ghat. But the place turned into a pile of debris when four floors of the building completely collapsed in 1999. And again in September 2009, the floor of the naubatkhana also collapsed.

Realising the survival crisis that this culturally-rich structure was facing, INTACH carried out an initial documentation of the building in 2009. And, in 2012, INTACH nominated it for World Monuments Watch (WMW) and decided to take the initiative for renovating it -- after the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) granted it permission to do so.

After seven years of hard work and much effort, the building has been restored to its past glory and has also been thrown open to the public. A bonus to this heritage building is the museum which has placed all the antique pieces for display.

"We realised the need for immediate work and started off. Since it was a very vital project we involved only INTACH members for the restoration work," Bindu Manchanda of INTACH told IANS.

And for the smooth functioning of the restoration project, American Express extended its helping hand towards INTACH and contributed Rs 1.5 crore for the entire work.

"It is a partnership between INTACH and American Express. The hard work has paid off and we are very happy with the outcome. It was great to be able to contribute"to the protection of a heritage monument, Manoj Adlakha, SVP and CEO, American Express Banking Corp., India, told IANS.

For the past two decades, American Express has partnered with a number of leading preservation organisations, including World Monuments Fund, to preserve and build awareness for at-risk heritage sites, and engage the public in preservation efforts around the world. Till date, American Express has granted more than $60 million in support for hundreds of preservation projects globally.

"Varanasi is a spiritual place; it is deeply rooted in culture and heritage. We have been doing a lot of work related to our CSR initiatives and we will continue doing so from time to time," Adlakha added.

According to INTACH, some prime reasons for the poor condition of the building were natural calamities, earthquakes, floods, lack of regular maintenance and decay of timber due to exposure to excessive moisture.

But when INTACH started off, there were many obstacles it needed to overcome, some major ones being encroachment, dumped waste in and around the building, inappropriate wiring, stagnant water near the building and clogged drains, to name just a few.

"Another problem that we faced was clearing the debris. We had to be very careful while doing so because many of the portions were in stable condition and we had to save and keep them intact. This was a challenge," Manchanda explained.

The restoration was not easy. There was a need to be sensitive and carry it out in a manner that the integrity and authenticity of the palace were not damaged.

"The choice of building materials needed to complement this historic palace. Achieving structural stability was another important component of the activity," Manchanda said.

However, she lamented that some of the front portions of the building couldn't be completed as the Varanasi Development Authority (VDA) didn't grant permission to do so.

"It is unfortunate that some parts have been left out; this doesn't complement the restored part. VDA should give us the permission to complete the work because it is a piece of history. Also, we are looking for more financial cooperation from other MNCs," she added.

IANS

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Unnao rape case: CBI detains accused BJP legislator

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The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Friday detained BJP legislator Kuldeep Singh Sengar who has been accused in the alleged gang rape of a 17-year-old girl, officials said.
 
He has been taken to the CBI office here where he is currently being interrogated. 
 
However, Sengar, the Bharatiya Janata Party legislator from Unnao, has yet not been arrested.
 
The girl tried to set herself on fire outside the Chief Minister's residence on Sunday, claiming police inaction in the gang rape case. 
 
Later on Sunday, her father was picked up by police and allegedly roughed up by Senger's brother Atul Singh and his aides after which he died.
 
The incident has triggered a political storm and public outrage in the state. 
 
IANS
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Varanasi, a spiritual city, on its way to becoming a Smart City: Kovind

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President Ram Nath Kovind has stated that Varanasi, a spiritual city, was on its way to becoming a Smart City with the government focus on improving infrastructure and connectivity to make it an economic hub.
 
The President, who arrived here yesterday, attended various functions of Uttar Pradesh Government and the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI). These included the laying of the foundation stone for five projects of NHAI and distribution of appointment letters to candidates selected at a job fair organised by the Vyavasaik Shiksha Evam Kaushal Vikas Vibhag (Industrial Training & Skill Development Department) of the State Government.
 
Speaking on the occasion, Mr Kovind said that, since ancient times, Varanasi has linked northern India with eastern India through waterways on the Ganga as well as by road. The Ganga has contributed to the culture and civilisation of city, and the region, and also to trade and development.
 
Today, the effort is to renew this spirit. Varanasi, through the National Waterways-1, the Eastern Freight Corridor and various highway projects, is re-emphasising its location as the gateway for the northern states to eastern India. The Government is focusing on infrastructure and connectivity to make Varanasi an economic hub, he said.
 
Mr. Kovind said that Varanasi offers enormous opportunities in tourism, which can lead to large-scale employment generation. Its handicrafts are well-regarded and world famous. He said he was happy to note that several schemes have been undertaken to provide modern facilities to craftspersons and connect their traditional skills to modern technology as well as new markets. He expressed confidence that the Deendayal Upadhyay Hastkala Sankul, where the function was being hosted, would help artisans in the Varanasi region enhance incomes and create jobs.
 
He said he was certain that with its legacy and heritage — and the knowledge, wisdom and talent of its people — Varanasi would continue to be a leading city in the 21st century. Later in the day, the President received the first copy of the Sanskrit translation of the book ‘Charaiveti! Charaiveti!!’, written by Uttar Pradesh Governor Ram Naik.
 
The President said Mr. Naik has left a distinct impression on public life through five decades of dedication and selfless service. In this book, he has shared his experiences and has spelt out his philosophy — to work relentlessly, without being affected by setbacks and successes.
 
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Kovind to visit Uttar Pradesh on Monday

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President Ram Nath Kovind will visit Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh tomorrow to lay the foundation stone of five projects of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI).
 
He will also distribute appointment letters to candidates selected during a job fair organised by the Vyavasaik Shiksha Evam Kaushal Vikas Vibhag of the Government of Uttar Pradesh.  
 
The President will also receive the first copy of the Sanskrit translation of the book ‘Charaiveti! Charaiveti!!’, written by Uttar Pradesh Governor Ram Naik, before returning to Delhi, an official press release added.
 
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Modi flags off train between Varanasi and Patna

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi flagged off a train for Patna from Manduadih Railway Station, launched various development projects and addressed a public meeting at the DLW Grounds here yesterday.
 
Mr Modi complimented the people of the pilgrim city for extending a warm welcome to French President Emmanuel Macron. He said the Government is committed to the continuous development and upgrading of the Diesel Locomotive Works (DLW), that manufactures diesel-electric locomotives and its spare part, describing it as  a symbol of the industrial development of Varanasi.
 
He appreciated the efforts of the State Government in the housing sector and urged it to ensure that more people get access to housing facilities. The Prime Minister also commended the exhibition of various “waste to wealth” initiatives at the venue.
 
There is immense potential for tourism in Varanasi, and all efforts should be made to keep the city clean, he added. Referring to the recently announced Ayushman Bharat scheme, he said it will transform the health sector by providing top quality healthcare to the poor.
 
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