Guwahati/Varanasi/ Delhi: MV Ganga Vilas, the world’s longest luxury river cruise, was flagged off by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in presence of Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath, Union ports, shipping & waterways minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Friday through the video-conferencing mode.

In his address PM Modi pointed out that the longest river cruise from Kashi to Dibrugarh is being flagged off to bring to the fore all the places of tourism in northern India on the world tourism map. He said other projects, being dedicated in UP (Varanasi), Bihar, West Bengal and Assam, worth Rs 1000 crore will give a push to the tourism and employment potential in eastern India.

Underlining the central role of river Ganga in the life of every Indian, Modi lamented that the area around the banks lagged behind in development in the post-independence period thereby leading to a massive exodus of population from the locality. He elaborated on a twin approach to address this unfortunate situation. On the one hand, the campaign is to clean Ganga (undertaken through Namami Gange) and Arth Ganga is taken up on the other. Various steps are taken to create an environment of economic dynamism in all the concerned States.

One can witness the extraordinary amalgamation of the heritage of India and its modernity on this cruise, stated Modi while shedding light on the new era of cruise tourism. Not just foreign tourists but Indians who traveled to different nations for such an experience can head towards northern India now, added Modi. Observing that the cruise will pass through 25 different river streams, he said that it has significant importance for those who have a keen interest in understanding the river systems of India.

He emphasized that India has more than 125 rivers and river streams, which can be developed to transport goods and ferry people, while also giving impetus to further expanding port-led development. Modi emphasised the need to build a modern multi-modal network of waterways and informed about the partnership with Bangladesh and other countries, which have strengthened the water connectivity in Northeast.

Equipped with the state-of-the-art amenities, the Ganga Vilas would cover a distance of 3,200 kilometer from Varanasi (UP) to Dibrugarh in eastern Assam traversing through Bangladesh in 51 days touching nearby 50 major tourist sites for the visitors. It is scheduled to sail across 27 river systems in India and Bangladesh. The vessel has three decks, 18 suites on board with a capacity of 36 tourists. The maiden voyage has 32 tourists from Switzerland signing up for the entire length of the journey.

PM Modi also inaugurated the maritime skill development centre in the city which is built with a cost of Rs six crore. The foundation stones for a ship repairing centre at Pandu ghat and an elevated road connecting the multi-modal terminal with the National Highway 27 (for which respectively Rs 208 crores and Rs 180 crores were sanctioned) were also laid by Modi. Attending the program, Sarma expressed his gratitude to Modi for numerous initiatives aiming in transforming north-eastern States into growth engines.

Referring to the launch of MV Ganga Vilas as a game-changer in unleashing the true potential of the tourism sector in eastern India, CM Sarma opined that it would go a long way in realizing Modi’s motto of transformation of the region through transportation. He appealed to the tourists from different parts of India as well as abroad to come forward for the never-before experience that the luxury river cruise would be offering.