Garbage on the Streets of Varanasi

Sunday, May 18, 2014

I was in Varanasi on 25th April 2014, a day after Mr. Narendra Modi filed his nomination papers from there for Indian Parliamentary Elections 2014. Everyone in Varanasi had something to say about "Modi". Never before in the history of independent India had Varanasi been so politically important as being a constituency of a prospective Prime Minister of India. That does not mean that Varanasi was not an important city before Mr. Modi came calling. According to Wikipedia, Varanasi is "one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world". It is also a holy city for being the seat of one of the 12 Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva, which is situated in the world famous Kashi Vishwanath Temple near Varanasi's Ghats. The river Ganges (Ganga) itself is worshipped as a holy river. Pilgrims and tourists from all over the world come to Varanasi to experience its culture and spirituality. Knowing all this, I wonder what could have happened over the centuries that the lives of the people of Varanasi became generally so listless that a mere visit of a political leader resulted in a state of euphoria in the city. As if a people resigned to their fate had suddenly seen a ray of hope. Isn't religion supposed to spiritually empower people? It would be almost unbelievable that the people of Varanasi hoped for Mr. Modi to accomplish what their own faith in Lord Shiva had failed to do.

Now to come to the point of this article, I need to skip to 17th May 2014 when Mr. Modi visited Varanasi again after winning the election from there. He was a Prime Minister-elect that day. The purpose of his visit to Varanasi that day was to say "Thank you" to the people of Varanasi for electing him. As a gesture of his gratitude he could have offered anything to the people of Varanasi. Instead, he just offered to "Clean the streets of Varanasi". Yes, that is the point of this article. Over the centuries, the holy city of Varanasi has become a garbage city. Keep reading...

Garbage in front of restaurants

Garbage in front of Aum Cafe Varanasi

Now look at the picture above (click the picture to enlarge). What you see is a pile of garbage in front of a restaurant called Aum Cafe. This is the highest rated restaurant in Varanasi as per Tripadvisor, and most of their customers are foreign tourists.

Garbage in the market area

Garbage in a Chowk Area Market in Varanasi

This picture is of a busy street in the Chowk area of Varanasi. There are shops on both sides where local people of Varanasi come to shop for garments and their other grooming & household needs.

Garbage on the road leading to Dashashwamedh Ghat

Garbage on the Road Leading to Dashashwamedh Ghat Varanasi

Dashashwamedh Ghat is the ghat where the daily evening Ganga Aarti takes place. This aarti is witnessed by hundreds of pilgrims and tourists every evening and all those people reach Dashashwamedh Ghat through this road. Garbage here is seen not only on road sides but also in the middle of the road.

It stinks

There is garbage everywhere in Varanasi and its stink is unbearable. Perhaps the people of Varanasi have gone nose-deaf. Or they just don't care. I learnt that about a year back, a private company called "AtoZ" or something like that was given the job of clearing the garbage from the streets of Varanasi on a daily basis. They used to charge INR 30 per family per month for the service and did their job well. But the service was terminated after employees of the local municipal body objected to the outsourcing of their basic job of maintaining sanitation in the city. "AtoZ" was stopped from clearing the garbage. The municipal employees never liked to this job anyway. They just disliked outsourcing more. Now Varanasi is a garbage city. I wonder if the gods and goddesses still live in Varanasi. If they do, they must be an angry lot. Who would want devotees like the citizens of Varanasi. Most of the international tourist guide books on India describe a trip to India as "an assault on all your senses". Those authors must have been to Varanasi.

Before Mr. Modi visited Varanasi on 17th May 2014, his political party's workers took the brooms in their hands and cleaned the ghats because Mr. Modi was to perform an Aarti at Dashashwamedh Ghat. The local administration couldn't care less. I just fail to understand why it would take a Prime Minister to get the streets of Varanasi cleaned up? No doubt Mr. Modi will get it done. He is ruthlessly effective in whatever job he sets out to do. His knowledge of the most basic problem of Varanasi is proof that he will be an effective leader of India. He will restore the former glory of Varanasi. Only, the glory will last as long as Mr. Modi remains the Prime Minister of India. Afterwards, Varanasi will become a garbage city again. 

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Posted by Narinder Singh

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I left my day job in October 2013 and became a full time blogger. I love travel and hence a travel blog was the obvious place to start from. The result is I currently live in Bengaluru, India. - Narinder Singh. (Email:


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