The proposed development provides multiple amenities for pilgrims such as Yatra Seva Kendras, guesthouses, hospice, library, and museum. It pays attention to public toilets and provides for a good number of them at places where pilgrims throng. The project has planned for extensive security arrangements, separate buildings for security personnel, a widened emergency entrance for vehicles and ambulances to enter the temple area. There are covered escalators to enable elderly pilgrims to climb the 26.5 m level difference (about eight floors height) between the river and temple. There are plans to preserve a few existing heritage structures such as the Goenka Library and hostel, and the fort-like structure on Jalasen Ghat. The plan means to remove the hideous sewage pumping station on the riverfront, an eyesore, and restore the architectural splendour of Lalita Ghat. Varanasi, by design: Vishwanath Dham and the politics of change A.G. Krishna Menon, an urban conservationist who was among the first architects to work on the development of Ghats in the 1980s and the former convenor of Delhi INTACH Chapter, strongly critiques the project. He says, “Change is necessary, but that cannot be the reason to destroy history. For instance, when we were working on Varanasi Ghats, there was a proposal to build a grand drive along the river connecting all the Ghats. We objected to that. The city is a microcosm of the country, and there are multiple stakeholders, so several context-specific improvement schemes were proposed all along the ghats to celebrate its diversity.” On the other hand, Vishal Singh, CEO, Shri Kashi Vishwanath Mandir Trust, defends demolishing the properties and the design intervention. He says, “Over the years, as the population grew and many original owners shifted out, properties were hardly maintained, leaving the place in a precarious condition. Last year, we surveyed the place and showed the documentary to the Prime Minister. It was decided that the place would be made safe and convenient to lakhs of visiting pilgrims and people living around it. So far we have bought 250 properties and compensated every one of them. When we cleared the properties, we discovered 33 temples, which will be repaired and opened for worship. Today, the ground is ready to be transformed into a great place for darshan. We are making true what Gandhiji urged us to do in Varanasi — keep the Sri Vishwanath temple and its area clean.” It is evident that the decision to overlook the polycentric and multicultural nature of the city and privilege the Vishwanath temple is a conscious one. The decision to focus on and give the temple an undiluted visual prominence emerges from a contemporary political desire that seeks to use the contested past of the place.