Heavy downpour on Sunday forced Prime Minister Narendra Modi to cancel his visit to Varanasi where he was scheduled to launch several central government sponsored projects worth Rs 2,000 crore, including the flagship Integrated Power Development Scheme (IPDS), which aims at 24×7 power for all, and much awaited opening of Trauma Centre and Super Specialty Hospital at Banaras Hindu University (BHU).
This is second consecutive time when the Prime Minister Modi had to defer the formal inauguration of the Trauma Centre — the biggest in the country constructed at a cost of Rs 165 crore — in his Lok Sabha constituency because of bad weather conditions. An earlier plan to inaugurate it in October last year was was canceled two days before the scheduled date following cyclone Hudhud hitting India’s eastern seaboard on October 12.
On Sunday, the PM was also scheduled to lay the foundation stone of an outer ring road of Varanasi before addressing a Vikas Jansabha at Diesel Locomotive Works (DLW) ground where district administration had erected a water proof pandal with capacity to seat around 10,000 people. However, continuous rains since last night led to water logging at the ground and in different parts of the temple town. Till 12 noon, BJP leaders kept claiming that the programme will be held as per the schedule. District administration officials, too, tried to pump out the water from ground and the area, where a temporary helipad was erected for PM’s helicopter to land.
It was only at 2pm that Union Minister of State for Power Piyush Goyal called an urgent press conference at DLW guesthouse to announce that PM’s visit has been cancelled. “The PM’s helicopter can land safely here but we are concerned about the safety of general public who will face inconvenience in reaching the programme venue. Meteorological department officials have predicated heavy rain after 3 pm,” Goyal said.
“Launching of IPDS and opening of BHU Trauma Centre has been postponed and fresh date for these events would be announced soon,” Goyal said while addressing the media with BJP state president Laxmikat Bajpai and Kashi region president Laxman Acharya in presence of officials of Power department and National Highways Authority of India (NHAI).
PM, who was to land in Varanasi at 3:10 pm, took to Twitter to express his apologies to the people.
“Was eagerly awaiting the Varanasi visit but unfortunately due to the weather I had to cancel. Sincere apologies to the people of Varanasi,” the Prime Minister tweeted after conclusion of his trip to Hazaribagh in Jharkhand where he laid foundation stone for Indian Agriculture Research Institute.
“We have received a telephonic communique from the Prime Minister’s Office regarding cancellation of his visit,” Divisional Commissioner R M Srivastava said.
Earlier, BHU vice-chancellor Prof GC Tripathi and other hospital staff performed havan and other religious rituals for about three hours from 6am to 9am in front of a plaque mentioning the inauguration of the project at the entrance lobby of Trauma Centre.
Trauma Centre’s Officer on Special Duty (OSD) Professor Anand Kumar said the unit, with a capacity of 334 beds, is operational since April 20 with 134 beds. “We have placed order for 200 more beds. The Trauma Centre has come up in area of 35 acre at the cost of around Rs 160 crore,” Kumar said.
The foundation stone of the Trauma Centre was laid in 2008 and then UPA government had released the fund for the entire project. Construction agency, Central Public Works Department (CPWD), had handed over the building to BHU in 2014.
Now, BHU officials are claiming that proposal to build the Trauma Centre was conceptualized by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. However, when asked about the old foundation stone of the Trauma Centre project, BHU authorities failed to give any information.