Varanasi: Arrayed in their bright colorful sarees, young and middle aged women stretch themselves on barbell benches and elliptical trainers, and every now and then, they giggle and chatter away.
In an open gym in the midst of a brimming market of Varanasi, women say, they are now far more health conscious than they have ever been. Their lives have changed, ever since their neighborhood got the physical fitness facility built over the Townhall parking under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s smart city mission.
The Central government launched the Smart Cities Mission in 2015 with an objective to promote sustainable and inclusive cities that provide core infrastructure and give a decent quality of life to its citizens, a clean and sustainable environment and application of ‘Smart’ Solution. Varanasi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s parliamentary constituency, is one of the cities chosen under the Smart City Mission.
Talking to The New Indian, a woman said the open gym is right outside her house and it makes it easy and accessible for her to keep a check on her health. Having these parks also gives them time to spend time with her friends and exercise together in the fresh air, she added.
Lauding the development work done by PM Modi, the woman said. “The grandeur of development under PM Modi’s regime is unparalleled and nothing like this has ever happened before.”
While exercising, another woman added, “People have become more health-conscious now, they’re more aware and have been committing to a healthy lifestyle.” Pointing to the number of women around her she questioned, “Did we ever see ladies in a public park in Banaras? Now if you see around, all you see are ladies who are exercising. Banaras has been completely revamped in the last five years and people are happy. And those who are not happy are jealous. Citizens are very happy with the work that’s been done.”
Healthcare has been one of the major areas of focus for Prime Minister Modi in his constituency. Apart from launching Ayushman Bharat Health Infrastructure Mission— the largest pan-India healthcare scheme, he inaugurated various development projects worth over Rs. 5200 crore for the ancient city known as the religio-cultural center of Hindus for thousands of years. Hundreds of rural and urban health and wellness centers have been set up in Uttar Pradesh since then. Nine medical colleges have been built at a cost of Rs 2,329 crore.
According to Niti Aayog’s State Health Index (2019-20), Uttar Pradesh ranked first out of 19 large states, with year-on-year incremental performance in health outcomes and overall status.
The decades of neglect and apathy shown by successive governments had left Varanasi as one of the most backward cities with poor sanitation and healthcare infrastructure. The residents of Banaras often self-admittedly complain about their own poor civic sense because of lack of facilities.
However, Prime Minister Modi’s emphasis on cleanliness, physical fitness and healthcare, has led to behavioral change to a huge extent. “We are cooperating with PM’s vision and initiative. The civic sense and health awareness in the cities of Uttar Pradesh has improved in the last few years,” a woman sitting at the newly constructed railway station said.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in October 2021 while inaugurating nine new medical facilities said that from 1947 to 2016, only 12 medical colleges were set up in the government sector in Uttar Pradesh. However, he pointed out that 30 were opening under the BJP government.
In one of his speeches, Yogi gave credit to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the change in healthcare infrastructure, “The inauguration of the medical colleges by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the real homage to all those who lost their lives because of lack of medical facilities since independence.”
The BJP is making healthcare a major issue in the upcoming assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh.
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