National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA) in partnership with Varanasi Smart City Ltd (VSCL) organised a city stakeholder consultation in Varanasi to create a collaborative and participatory roadmap towards the vision of Sugamya Kashi (inclusive Varanasi).
The consultation was aimed to engage with the relevant city stakeholders and apprise them of the progress of the Building Accessible Safe Inclusive Indian Cities programme and ongoing city engagement activities being implemented in Varanasi on disability inclusion. The UK Aid funded case study research being led by the Global Disability Innovation Hub (GDI Hub) was also discussed.
The effort was to also sensitize the stakeholders and mainstream the dialogue on disability inclusion across policy and project interventions and facilitating technical assistance to the city beyond the BASIIC programme timeline.
The consultation was a joint endeavour of Varanasi Smart City Limited (VSCL) and the National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA) and its partner the Global Disability Innovation Hub (GDI Hub), London.
Hitesh Vaidya, Director, National Institute of Urban Affairs emphasized the importance of accessibility and inclusion for the city in its endeavours of rejuvenation of ghats, riverfronts, heritage sites, temples and other water bodies to become a world-class spiritual and cultural destination.
He is hopeful that the key findings and the recommended solutions from the study would assist the stakeholders in devising phase-wise action plans for implementation.
Dr. D. Vasudevan, Chief General Manager, Varanasi Smart City Ltd. emphasized the need for solutions and innovations that are contextual and tailor-made to the characteristics of the city.
He is also optimistic that the smart projects in the pipeline, with technical assistance from NIUA, will be planned, designed and implemented with a special focus on making them accessible and inclusive for persons with disabilities.
The event was graced by the presence of Minister Counsellor of UK government, Katy Budge. She congratulated the leadership of Varanasi Smart City Limited for its efforts in making Varanasi more accessible for its citizens and visitors.
She expressed her delight in the successful completion of the city audit assessment study (jointly conducted by NIUA and GDIH team) which will act as great learning to all Indian Cities.
She emphasized the need of staying connected, learning from each other and learning from Disability People organisations and keeping the topic of “Inclusion” always in the spotlight.
Pranay Kumar Singh, CEO, Varanasi Smart City Ltd. and Municipal Commissioner, Varanasi Nagar Nigam said, “The concept of “Inclusion”, which is multidimensional that encompasses persons with disabilities, gender and demographic diversity should be integrated into the future action plan for Varanasi city development.”
“We are facilitators and will continue on our efforts to integrate inclusive planning and design approaches within the smart city interventions for enabling universal accessibility,” added Singh.