TOI Dialogues: Varanasi key to UP achieving goal of  trillion economy, says Awanish Awasthi, advisor to CM Adityanath | India News – Times of India

NEW DELHI: After Gorakhpur and Lucknow, TOI Dialogues reached Varanasi on Thursday to delve into the city’s old-world charm combined with new-age growth.
Globally renowned for its vibrant ghats that line River Ganga and timeless traditions, Varanasi now finds itself at the crossroads of ancient heritage and modern-day developments.
In his opening address, The Times of India Resident Editor Pravin Kumar said that while media is a powerful tool to inform and educate, it also has immense responsibility towards society.
“TOI runs campaigns for social awareness and provides stages for exchange of ideas, TOI Dialogues is one such initiative. We selected Uttar Pradesh to launch TOI Dialogues as this state has seen unprecedented transformation in the past couple of years,” said Kumar.
Calling UP a “land of unlimited potential”, Kumar said the state has become an ideal investment destination and is on path to become a $1 trillion economy, “a goal set by UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath”.
The keynote address was delivered by Awanish Awasthi, advisor to UP CM.
Noting that Varanasi’s fate and fame is inexorably linked to the Ganga, Awasthi said that every ghat on the banks of the river have a unique history. “As tourism secretary I was able to launch the Ganga Cruise … travelling from Varanasi to Chunar and right up to Prayag during the rainy season is a cruise that no one should miss,” he said.
He further said that India was fast moving towards the goal of $5 trillion economy goal.
“CM Yogi has mentioned that Uttar Pradesh should also plan to achieve $1 trillion economy … We are now second largest economy in India,” Awasthi said.
He further said he had the good fortune of being the religious secretary when Prime Minister Narendra Modi and UP CM Adityanath announced the goal of creating the Kashi ghat and corridor.
“Around 301 houses were acquired in the densest area of the city to create the corridor we have today … the Kashi dham has worked wonders for our state … more than 2 lakh on average and sometimes even 5 lakh people come here every day,” said Awasthi.
He added that over 35 crore people are expected to attend the 2025 Kumbh.
Talking about the now famous Ayodhya Deeposatsav, Awasthi said it was CM Adityanath who first gave the idea for the event. “In 2017, 15 days before Diwali, UP CM Yogi Adityanath had asked us ‘what happens in Ayodhya during Diwali’ … We said ‘it’s always dark’ … It is then that Ayodhya Deeposatsav (a day before Diwali) started … Today, we have set a world record for lighting most number of earthen lamps,” said Awasthi.
He credited the UP CM for pioneering the idea of transforming religious tourism in the state. “His first directions to officials were to have zero tolerance to crime and strict implementation of rule of law,” he said, adding: “We have increased police strength by nearly 60% in the state and it is now the largest police force in the world.”
“Use of technology, good surveillance systems; cybersecurity and spending over Rs 5000 crore on the police infrastructure has improved the state’s law and order situation. It was UP CM Adityanath who focussed on ensuring punishment for people who had committed grave or heinous crimes … there were criminals who had 50-100 cases,” Awasthi said, adding: “Uttar Pradesh now has the highest conviction rate in crimes against women and children.”
Commenting on bulldozer demolition, Awasthi said: “If you are a criminal and if you have made a building that is illegally constructed then as per rule of law it can be demolished after giving notice … and if the land belongs to the government it can be acquired.”
“In Prayagraj, building of a mafia don was demolished and the land was acquired as it belonged to the government, high-rise apartments were constructed for the poor … this is the message CM has sent,” said Awasthi.
He added that strict implementation of rule of law is a pre-requisite to laying down the basics of democracy.
In a series of panel discussions, TOI Dialogues decoded how Varanasi is balancing its cultural legacy with contemporary advancements, while contributing to the overall growth of Uttar Pradesh.

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