The Ro-Pax vessels (boats) will soon be floating on the Ganga river, giving a new dimension to water traffic in the holy city.
The service, which is another first in Uttar Pradesh, is aimed at boosting local and rural tourism, besides adding one more tourist attraction to the city.
The Ro-Pax (Roll-On-Roll-Off passenger ship) vessels are double-ended ferries. The vessels are equipped with such arrangements that vehicles can also roll on and roll off the vessels. To load the vehicles, cranes are not needed.
The two Ro-Pax boats — MV Swami Vivekanand and MV Sam Maneckshaw — have already arrived in the city. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to flag them off virtually on October 30 or 31, said a district official.
Official sources said that the department of tourism will operate the boats.
“The two Ro-Pax vessels have already arrived in Varanasi. The department of tourism has shown interest in operating the RO-PAX vessels. We had a dialogue regarding the matter and soon, the MoU between Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) and the department of tourism will be signed,” said Rakesh Kumar, deputy director, IWAI, Varanasi.
A Ro-Pax vessel has a capacity to carry around 200 passengers and four four-wheelers at a time. It is equipped with all required facilities for the passengers.
An offer letter for operating these vessels was received from IWAI over a month ago. Thereafter, district administration instructed the department of tourism to find out if operating the vessels was possible in the Ganga river.
“Within two-days, the department of tourism gave its nod. Thereafter, the administration gave its consent and sent a letter in this regard to the concerned officials,” he added.
Confirming this, the Divisional Commissioner Deepak Agarwal said, “An offer letter was received from the IWAI for operating the RO-PAX vessels. Consent for the same has been given and the letter has been sent to the state government for further action.”
He said that as soon as the MoU is signed with the IWAI, the department of tourism will start the process for operating the vessels on PPP mode.
“Department of tourism has already made plans to operate the vessels. Initially, these boats will operate from Sant Ravidas Ghat to Chunar fort in upstream Ganga, and Sant Ravidas Ghat to Crescent Moon shaped ghat at the confluence of Ganga and Gomati near Kaithi, where tourists can also catch the glimpses of the dolphins,” said Agarwal.
Regional tourism officer, Kirtiman Srivastava said that under the guidance of district administration, a plan for operating the vessels had already been drawn.
It would be implemented soon after the MoU is signed. He said that the operating vessels would help boost economic activities in and around Varanasi.