Manjhi is the General Secretary of the Maa Ganga Nishad Raj Seva Samiti – one of the main boaters’ unions in Varanasi. The 30-metre double-decker private cruise ship has been a disappointment to several thousand boaters whose livelihoods depend on clients who they believe should come to the Ghats for their boats alone.
“We bill clients based on their financial background. But ever since this cruise ship came along, all the high-paying customers opted for the cruise. Our revenues have been affected. We tolerated this initially but instead of limiting themselves to a few ghats they eventually started covering all the ghats. The boatmen got very angry and protested for 13 days,” Manjhi explained.
On the 13th day, Manjhi and the other boatmen who were protesting the cruise ship were told it would be removed from the ghats.
“It’s almost four years now. That one cruise is still there, and what’s worse, there are 3-4 other cruises here now,” he said.
In December 2021, both PM Modi and CM Adityanath witnessed an elaborate Ganga-Aarti aboard the luxury cruise.
“The cruise really hurt our businesses and it felt like we didn’t care about the guides,” said another boatswain, reeling with betrayal.