In his first visit to Japan, PM Narendra Modi has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe to transform Varanasi into a ‘smart city’. Japan is home to some of the best cities in the world and Kyoto, where the Indian PM met Abe, is a city which is home to over 10,000 shrines, has been the imperial capital for millennia. While these denominators are certainly reflective of the similarities that Kyoto and Varanasi have, especially with the latter’s innumerable temples along the banks of River Ganga, has it also occured to the PM that there are significant differences? Varanasi is a city with narrow, filthy lanes while Kyoto’s clean and wide boulevards are a manifestation of Nippon’s adoration for hygiene and sanitation. Thus, the very first impediment to this ambitious dream would be the swathe of grime and muck that seems to have permanently settled on the lanes and roads of Varanasi. The problem gets only compounded from here as there is a complete lack of civic sense in the people who reside in this ‘holy’ city. And if that weren’t enough, the Gangetic stretch through Varanasi is terribly polluted. Alarmingly enough, experts have opined that it might have already reached a point of no return for remedial actions. The Ganga Action Plan, launched way back in 1986, was a dud, while BJP-led poll campaign to clean Ganga has also not prompted enough acutual action to make it environmentally hazard-free. Till the time, a basic civic sense is not developed, Varanasi shall continue to languish as one of India’s dirtiest cities and that PM Modi’s noble intention would only remain a dream.