Union minister for port, shipping and waterways (independent charge) Mansukh L. Mandaviya, here on Saturday, said his ministry was trying to start cargo and cruise operations through the Ganga between Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh and Haldia in Bengal on a war footing.
Mandaviya was in Malda to attend a slew of outreach programmes arranged by the district BJP.
He claimed the waterways link from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh to Haldia in Bengal through Sahebganj in Jharkhand would start on priority basis. “The Prime Minister wants the Ganga to be used for generating money for the citizens. We want to utilise our rivers in the interest of the citizens. The commencement of waterways journey between Varanasi and Haldia would ensure employment of youths too,” he said.
He added that the central government planned to expedite herbal tourism in Bengal through cruises.
“Like in Kerala, herbal treatment would be offered at various villages where enthusiasts can go through riverways,” the minister said.
Asked about his ministry’s stand on the deep sea port at Tajpur in Bengal, the minister said: “We are ready to help the state government in all possible ways. We may have political differences but there should be no discrimination when it comes to development.”
He said movement of cargo and passenger ships along the 4,000-km-long waterways across India had partially started and aid to the tune of Rs 4,500 crore had come from the World Bank.
We are trying to connect waterways through the Padma rivers and this will help us export stone chips to Bangladesh which the neighbouring country imports from Bhutan,” he said.
Mandaviya also added that Tripura, Assam and other Northeast states would be connected through waterways.
“We are emphasising journeys through waterways because they are eco-friendly and cost-effective. Pollution would be significantly reduced if goods are carried through waterways,” he said.
Comparing the cost of carrying goods via road, rail and water, the minister said, “While the minimum cost of carrying a kilo of goods through roadways is Rs 4 and Rs 2.50 through rail, it is merely 95 paisa through waterways.”
Mandaviya spoke about the achievements of the central government and visited the house of one Rajani Hembram in Old Malda for lunch. He also met representatives of different communities, including teachers, painters, chartered accountants and businessmen at the Malda College auditorium.