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Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to be unhappy with the potholed roads, power outages, waterlogging and various other civic problems that plague Varanasi, his parliamentary constituency.The Prime Minister’s Office on July 12 emailed the district administration and gave it 24 hours to send a status report on around 50 projects undertaken to improve the infrastructure in one of the world’s oldest living cities.“An amount of Rs 6.5 crore goes down the drain. The amount was allotted to the PM constituency for making it pothole free; two days rain shows the true picture of inefficiency,” Tanmay Mehta, the PM’s executive personal assistant, wrote.He asked why roads had not been fixed despite repeated instructions and funds being made available.The UP government had set June 15 deadline for the roads to be free of potholes across the state.Varanasi is an ancient holy Hindu town visited by millions every year. Narrow bylanes, congested neighbourhoods and unplanned construction make its civic issues unique.Modi wants to turn around the temple town. Varanasi has been picked to be part of his ambitious smart city project that aims to overhaul, with the aid of information technology, the way urban India lives.But it seems like a tall order, for now.The administration sent a letter, which was accessed by Hindustan Times, to all 24 departments, asking for the status of projects.“On the basis of details, a detailed progress report of various developmental projects was prepared and sent to the PMO,” district magistrate Yogeshwar Ram Mishra said.The PMO also sought an explanation from the Varanasi Municipal Corporation (VMC) on its failure to take care of stray animals.It pointed to leaking pipes, which it said wasted water, and also pulled by the civic body for not cleaning public toilets regularly.The city’s municipal commissioner has ordered regular cleaning of toilets.The PMO also asked about the arrangements made to check waterlogging in primary schools and sought a report on programmes launched to boost tourism.Taking note of recent waterlogging after a spell of heavy rain, Mehta wanted to know why the drainage system failed.The administration was also asked about the steps taken to clear the misgivings of cloth merchants, who went on a strike against the goods and services tax.Varanasi is famous for its Banarasi silk, well-known for its intricate patterns and use of gold and silver thread. The fabric is named after the town — Varanasi is also known as Benares or Kashi.
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