Cities of northern India with cultural significance were covered during the voyage, depicting the tales from the Ganga Aarti of Varanasi ghat to cities such as Patna (Bihar), Sahibganj (Jharkhand), Kolkata (West Bengal), Dhaka (Bangladesh), Guwahati (Assam), showcasing a composite ethos. European tourists experienced the ancient temples and sites such as Sarnath, where Buddha delivered his first sermon after enlightenment. The tour depicted the rich history through visits to war memorials and museums, representing different facets of the nation’s journey, with institutions such as Banaras Hindu University, Vikramshila University, Bihar School of Yoga depicting our rich tradition of education and learning. The journey also explored the unique and varied flora and fauna, from the Royal Bengal tigers of the Sunderbans to the one-horned rhino of Kaziranga National Park.
The voyage proudly showcased everything Indian — the Make in India vessel MV Ganga Vilas, with the décor done by Indian designers. The journey provided the tourists with an insight into the local arts and crafts and a first-hand glimpse of initiatives such as Vocal for Local and One District One Product.
The Act East Policy of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the focus on developing the national waterways made this historic voyage a reality. It was also a true demonstration of Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India) with a domestically manufactured vessel, a fully Indian crew, Indian decor, Indian cuisine, Indian art and craft, and products being showcased. The vessel with a zero-discharge policy also used the Indian Oil Corporation-manufactured green fuel with the Dolphin Deterrent Device, fully compatible with the Panchamrit commitments for environmental conservation and sustainability.
The integration of North India with northeastern India through river systems is in line with the Look East Policy. The international trade routes via the Indo-Bangladesh Protocol Route will be further strengthened for trade as it will revive the once-vibrant trade route between Dibrugarh and Kolkata. The cruise will also have a multiplier impact on the economy of the states with improvements, such as the construction of terminals, the development of a regulatory environment, cabotage relaxation regime, discounted tariff policy, ongoing revision of standard operating procedures, marketing engagements with leading cruise operators; workshops and conferences in India. The cruise has laid the foundations for future developments in tourism resulting in benefits for the economy, trade and commerce and has encompassed the spirit of Ek Bharat Shreshta Bharat (One India, Greatest India).
Sudhanshu Pant is secretary, ministry of ports, shipping and waterways The views expressed are personal.