The Maiden Journey On National Waterway 1: Testing The Waters
At Varanasi’s Raj Ghat on the banks of the Ganga, two large merchant vessels, decorated with marigold flowers and balloons, await a flag-off by Union minister Nitin Gadkari. Under a large tent, government officials are darting around trying to fix last-minute glitches. A curious crowd is gathered around the venue even as another leans over for a glimpse from the British-era bridge nearby.
Barely 50 metres away, a family, untouched by the euphoria, is busy piling wood over the body of a loved one. As the pyre is lit, Gadkari arrives. When he waves a flag to set off the vessels, the crowd breaks into slogans of “Bharat Mata ki jai”. The burning wood crackles nearby unheard.
It is only in Varanasi that sorrow and celebration can co-exist; the beginning and end coming together so seamlessly. On August 12, one of the oldest living cities in the world, also the constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, became the launchpad for an ambitious government project to move goods on a large scale over inland waterways, to cut transportation costs substantially. MV VV Giri and MV Joy Basudev took off with a consignment of 24 newly assembled Maruti cars and 1,400 tonnes of goods, respectively. Joy Basudev was headed for Ballia in UP. VV Giri was to travel to Kolkata — a distance of 1,100 km, over ‘National Waterway 1’.